Former Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said he's "afraid" for his longtime friend Joe Paterno now that he's no longer coaching, and he added he knew Jerry Sandusky for many years and is "shocked to death" about the child sex-abuse allegations aimed at the former Penn State assistant coach.
Speaking of Paterno, Bowden said, "I am afraid for him because, after coaching 61 years, then all of the sudden you're not coaching.
"You just simply have to have something else to get your mind on," Bowden added when contacted by phone Thursday afternoon. "I hope Joe can find a hobby or something that will challenge him to keep going, and I really feel like he will."
The Associated Press
Joe Paterno and Bobby Bowden chatted during Penn State's trip to Alabama in 2010.
Paterno has not been visible much since the scandal broke, so it's not clear how he's coping with everything -- which includes getting fired, having his integrity questioned and seeing his beloved university have to deal with the tragedy.
Bowden himself said last Friday during a speaking engagement that Paterno was "a little negligent," a comment that drew nationwide attention. Bowden on Thursday acknowledged that Paterno must be under "great pressure."
"I can't even hardly visualize it because I haven't been under pressure like that," he said.
"The only thing I could say, knowing Joe like I have through the years, he might be the only guy that can withstand that. He's got a great wife, got a great family, people who love him and he's got a lot of what it takes. And he's going to have to call on that."
Bowden noted he called on his faith after getting forced out at Florida State in 2009 after 34 years.
"The thing I did, I've always had such great respect for God in my life," he said. "I'm not saying I'm a good guy; I'm not saying that. But my belief in God and that I have a savior in Christ, that got me through a lot of my bad problems.
"I can imagine how much it hurts [Paterno]," Bowden noted. "They let me go a year early here when I didn't want to go, and you get back to looking at all the good years you had, and all of the sudden it means nothing to them. So there was a withdrawal for me for about a year. I've gotten over it now, and I've stayed busy speaking and playing golf, visiting family."
As much pressure as Paterno might be feeling, Bowden said it should help that JoePa no longer has the pressure of coaching.
"I know this: When I resigned at Florida State ... for the first time in 47 years I didn't have to worry about the players, I didn't have to worry about them going to class, I didn't have to worry about them passing their exam, I didn't have to worry about recruiting, I didn't have to worry about the schedule," Bowden said.
"All of the sudden, there was a big weight removed from my shoulders. And I hope that's what happens to Joe. I hope there's a great weight [lifted off him]. All the things he had to be concerned about, he doesn't have to be concerned about. But again, what's he going to do? You've been doing that other all your life, what are you going to do now?"
There has been speculation Paterno's statue outside Beaver Stadium could be removed in the wake of the scandal.
"I hope they don't," Bowden said. "When you're like me down here [in Florida] and all you know is what you read in the paper and what you see on television, you don't know what all is involved with Coach Paterno. But I wouldn't want to take the statue down. You're throwing away 61 great years for something that happened this last year."
Bowden said the news about Sandusky came out of nowhere.
"We were shocked to death because I knew Coach Sandusky pretty good," he said. "When I coached at West Virginia, we played Penn State every year -- we would spend the night in Altoona the night before the game and drive up. But I knew Coach Sandusky coaching against him, and then I'd be at clinics with him and banquets with him. I was just shocked, I'm sure like everybody else. Just shocked. 'This can't be happening.' That's kind of what you're thinking."
At no point, looking back on all the time he spent around Sandusky, did Bowden ever notice or suspect Sandusky showing odd behavior around kids.
"No, no, I doubt it," Bowden said. "I would think only the people that were around him that saw his closeness with these boys and knew that the shower stuff was going on, they might question it. But the rest of us, we didn't see all of that, we don't know that."
Cory Giger can be reached at 949-7031 and @CoryGiger on Twitter.