TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Former Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden revealed he was successfully treated for prostate cancer in 2007, making the rounds Tuesday in New York to tell his story.
Although he had kept it secret for more than four years, Bowden said he believed it was now "my moral duty to bring it out in the open."
Bowden, who turns 82 in early November, appeared on several morning television shows as a paid spokesman for a national prostate cancer education initiative called On The Line. He's scheduled for more appearances Wednesday.
"This month is awareness month in regard to prostate cancer so we're really putting the hammer down this week," Bowden said in a 15-minute telephone interview with The Associated Press. "We've got to get men aware of this."
About 240,000 American men are diagnosed annually with prostate cancer and about 33,720 die from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. Only lung cancer kills more American men. It is frequently a slow-growing cancer.
"It's so important that men start facing the facts that one in six over 40 are going get it," Bowden said. "That's pretty dadgummed heavy numbers, kind of like women's breast cancer."
Bowden was treated by one of his former players who was captain of the coach's first team at FSU in 1976. Dr. Joe Camps, a urologist and surgical oncologist, implanted low-dose radiation seeds in Bowden's prostate.
Bowden, who is now cancer free, was referred to Camps by team doctor Kris Stowers after an annual physical.
"I didn't even know I had it," Bowden told the AP. "There was no pain. The only pain was taking that treatment."
Bowden said he nearly forgot about the experience.
"We did something about it really quick so the next time they checked, it was clear," Bowden said. "So I never really had a chance to get worried about it."
Bowden said he didn't want anyone to find out he had cancer because he was worried other schools would use it against him in recruiting.
"People used to get on me that 'he's too old; he's 77 – ought not even be coaching,'" Bowden said. "Now you add cancer to that and I didn't have a chance."
Jimbo Fisher, who was Bowden's offensive coordinator for three years before replacing him, had no idea that the coach had had prostate cancer.
"It was surprising to me to hear because I had no knowledge of it, but I am very glad everything turned out all right," Fisher said Monday. "He's one of my heroes."
Bowden felt free to go public after he left the FSU job.
"Now that I'm not coaching anymore I can get it out. I'm glad I'm able to do something," he said.
Bowden's last boss at Florida State, former university President T.K. Wetherell, has a more aggressive form of the disease and said Tuesday he was glad that Bowden had spoken about his experience. Wetherell, who was diagnosed in 2003, was at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston on Tuesday for treatment.
"One thing you learn, and Bowden is a good teacher, is that you don't quit," Wetherell said. "There really isn't an option."
"So many people don't even understand it, particularly men," said Wetherell, 65.
And that's something that Bowden wants to change.
"We've got to get men aware of this and be sure they get to the doctor and get their checkup where they can discover it like they did me," Bowden told AP. "If you get it early you can get it. If you wait too late, it's too late."
Bowden's revelation was first reported in Tuesday's edition of USA Today.