Former Florida State head coach Bobby Bowden revealed Tuesday that he was diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer in 2007 while coaching the Seminoles.
Bowden, who will turn 82 in early November, said he is partnering with On the Line, a national prostate cancer education initiative. September is prostate cancer awareness month. Bowden is telling his story this week, appearing on television programs and doing various interviews to raise awareness.
Bowden, whose cancer has been in remission for four years, said On the Line needed someone to speak out about prostate cancer. Since he had prostate cancer and beat it, Bowden said he was the person to talk about it.
“I wish I had done it sooner,” Bowden told Newsday in an interview on Wednesday morning.
Bowden said he found out he had cancer after the Florida State team doctor, Kris Stowers, did a routine physical examination in April 2007 after the conclusion of spring practice.
“I’m glad I did because through one of those physicals and one of the blood tests that I had to take, he spotted a problem in my prostate,” Bowden said.
Stowers then sent Bowden to a specialist, Dr. Joe Camps, a defensive back and captain on Bowden’s first team at Florida State in 1976.
Bowden said nobody at Florida State knew he had cancer, including his players. He said his wife, children and doctors were the only people who knew about it. Bowden said Stowers arranged for a secret appointment with Camps and told him to bring his wife.
“I never said anything about it, just got my treatment,” Bowden said. “After six months of treatment, it was all gone and I’ve been cured. I never said anything about it. I just never even thought about it because I didn’t hurt and I wasn’t in pain. I didn’t have to miss anything. So I didn’t say anything about it. The fact that I was a victim and that I am cured that made it perfect for me to partner with OntheLine.com during the campaign. That’s why I’m doing it.”
Bowden said having someone familiar like Camps involved with his treatment helped a great deal.
“He was one of the captains,” Bowden said. “He was one of the most valuable players I had. He was a great student and a great player. Knowing that he was my doctor, I had a lot of confidence in him. When Joe said something, I believed him. I think that was very important.”
According to Bowden, the main reason for keeping his cancer a secret was so coaches from other schools couldn’t use it against him during recruiting.
“It was all because of recruiting,” Bowden said. “I really never even thought I was hiding it from anybody. I just knew that I couldn’t let the coaches at the other schools find out that I had cancer. Now, even though it was cured, the fact that I was being treated, it would be headlines, ‘Bobby Bowden has cancer.’ That would scare off recruits. I’ve always believed that whoever gets the best players is going to win.”
Bowden finished with 377 career wins and won two national championships at Florida State. He announced his retirement on Dec. 1, 2009 and coached his final game on Jan. 1, 2010, leading Florida State to a win over West Virginia in the Gator Bowl.
According to On the Line, 1 in 6 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer during his lifetime. On the Line also reports that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men – second only to lung cancer.
Bowden is urging men to get checked by their doctors.
“I’m trying to get the message out,” Bowden said.