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Haggins, Bowden share long-time friendship


The Ledger (Lakeland, FL)

By BOB FERRANTE | LEDGER CORRESPONDENT

TALLAHASSEE -- Few men have enjoyed a friendship like the one Odell Haggins has had with Florida State coach Bobby Bowden.

Haggins played for Bowden in the 1980s. And after a few years in the NFL, Haggins made the transition to FSU assistant coach - where he's enjoyed a 16-year run on Bowden's coaching staff.

"I'll miss Odell," Bowden said. "Odell is something special."

Haggins - and his mom - felt the same way nearly 25 years ago. The former Bartow High standout was being courted by a number of programs, but Haggins said they felt a connection with Bowden and FSU.

"Coach Bowden came to my house in Bartow, met my mom," Haggins said. "His Christian belief really, really helped my mom feel comfortable. Right there, when she heard about that, it was over in recruiting."

Haggins developed into an All-American nose guard for FSU from 1986 to 1989, helping the Seminoles go 39-8-1 and win four bowl games in his career. He had 278 tackles at FSU - including an amazing 100 as a senior.

He's one of the best interior defensive linemen of the 34-year Bowden Era. Haggins was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers and played for the Buffalo Bills in 1991. Two years later, he was sitting in coaches' meetings at FSU with Bowden.

"I knew Odell had been a good leader and had the pro experience," Bowden said. "He was an ideal prospect for a coach."

Haggins started out as a defensive end at FSU before shifting inside to help strengthen the Seminoles' line. That move left a mark in Bowden's memory years later.

"It was an unselfish decision," Haggins said. "He said, 'Son, you made a decision that helped this football team out.' He said, 'You are the type of coach I need around here.' And ever since then, I've been here. When I finished up (in the NFL), he called me one day and asked me if I wanted to coach. And I said, 'Yes.'"

Haggins coached the offensive line and tight ends in 1994 and '95 before moving to the defensive tackles the next year.

He has delivered as a coach, helping FSU win a national title in 1999 and 10 Atlantic Coast Conference championships. He also has been a mentor to four first-round draft picks at defensive tackle: Andre Wadsworth, Corey Simon, Travis Johnson and Brodrick Bunkley.

Haggins will stay at FSU on new coach Jimbo Fisher's staff after Bowden retires following the Jan. 1 Gator Bowl against West Virginia.

Bowden has "been a great mentor," Haggins said.

"When you're a player, you think, 'Why is coach doing this?' But then you're a coach and you see why coach is doing that. They want to make (players) better and make them grow up as young men.

"It's been great. It's been a great 16 years."

Copyright 2009 Lakeland Ledger Publishing Corporation
All Rights Reserved

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