TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Mike Hickman’s coaching career began as a student manager for the West Virginia University football team. It was there he met the team’s offensive coordinator and future college football hall of famer, Bobby Bowden.
“It was just amazing to watch the guy put in a wrinkle here," Hickman told ABC 27. "And some of these trick plays he did and the way he coached fundamentals.”
A few years later in the early stages of his career at FSU, Coach Bowden made a phone call that brought Hickman to Tallahassee. And it changed the course of his life forever.
“We just had a casual meal. Just chit-chatting. And then after it was over he had this letter for me," Hickman added. "And he said take this around. See if anything interests you.”
With a can’t say no recommendation from the man himself, Hickman began his head coaching coaching career in the Big Bend at Rickards High School. Bowden had laid out a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for him to embark on his own hall of fame career.
“I’ve been here since 1983. I’ve been inducted into the FAC Hall of Fame. That doesn’t happen if I stay in West Virginia," he added.
No matter how busy their lives got, Bowden and Hickman could always re-spark that incredible bond at a moment's notice.
“If I was close enough he’d say hey Mike buddy. Which he always called everybody buddy. And I’d come over and he’d give me a little hug and say how you doing. Then he'd go back to what he was doing but he took the time. He was just that kind of guy. But he was genuine, sincere, he was authentic. There wasn’t anything phony about him.”
In his final message to coach Bowden, Mike Hickman has wrapped the gift of their treasured friendship with a ribbon of gratitude. For living a life that has given purpose to those who got to live theirs alongside him.
“I will always be indebted and grateful that I’ve had a wonderful life and wonderful career. And I don’t think it would’ve happened without coach Bowden.”