It was 1995 and I was in my first season calling UCF football games. The season began with a talented freshman named Daunte Culpepper leading the Knights to a 2-0 start. But this was a different challenge for UCF. This was a trip to Tallahassee where they would face the number one team in the country, the Florida State Seminoles.
The game came about because UCF coach Gene McDowell was a former Bowden assistant and Bobby knew it was a money game for the Knights who were making the transition from 1-AA to the top level of college football.
In 1993, Bowden's Seminoles won the national championship. In 94', FSU went 10-1-1 and had one of the greatest ties ever rallying against their rival Gators- who they went on to beat in a rematch in the Sugar Bowl.
FSU opened the 1995 season with three routes and scored 70, 45 and 77 points in those wins. When UCF came to town, everyone expected the Noles' to name the score. The Florida Times Union newspaper mocked the idea of the Knights even playing the game and wondered if Bobby's Boys could score 100 and even predicted they would score 92.
FSU won 46-14. Did Bobby take it easy on his former assistant? Maybe. But the story I remember that stands out took place before the game.
My color analyst for UCF Football is Gary Parris. Gary played eight seasons in the NFL and starred at FSU (1969-1972) before Bowden was coach. A few of the assistants at FSU when Gary was there included Bill Parcells, Joe Gibbs, Steve Sloan and Gene McDowell. About 90 minutes before kickoff, Gary and I were standing down on the field and watching both teams warm up. Although he didn't play for Bobby Bowden, the two knew each other through several meetings and events over the years.
As we walked in the end zone on the UCF side of warmups, Bowden came walking over after he spotted Gary. The two quickly exchanged hellos and talked about their families. Gary kindly introduced me to Bowden and Bobby asked about this amazing quarterback UCF had and how he wanted Daunte and everyone else in college football.
Then Bowden said, "Guys, I want to introduce someone to you. And Gary, I am telling you, he's going to be a star and he's going to play in the NFL and he will be a star there as well."
The young player, tall and thin, was wearing a slick FSU warmup suit and came over and extended his hand.
Bobby then added, "Guys, this is Randy Moss. You ain't ever seen anything like this but you will remember his name."
Moss then turned and jogged towards the sideline. We wished Bobby well and headed back up to our radio booth. I knew of Randy Moss before that introduction and handshake. But many highly recruited players were hyped and never lived up to it. Moss had transferred from Notre Dame and was redshirting that season at FSU. He never played for the Seminoles and would transfer again to Marshall where he did live up to the hype and then go on to have a Hall of Fame career in the NFL.
Moss did just fine at Marshall and was the 21st overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, where Peyton Manning was the top pick.
Bowden was right. Moss was indeed going to be an all-time great. Who knows what Moss would have done at FSU. Bowden's teams went 22-2 in the two seasons Moss was catching passes in Huntington for the Thundering Herd.
But that night in 1995, the legend Bobby Bowden knew about another legend-to-be.
Final thought: Gary Parris' roommate his rookie season with the Chargers was future Hall of Fame Dan Fouts. Gary's first catch as a pro was thrown by another future Hall of Famer - Johnny Unitas.