Todd Bowles needed to skip Buccaneers mini camp Saturday. But the rookies probably didn’t mind his absence. After all, college graduations are big life events, particularly when it takes decades to earn the degree.
The Tampa Bay head coach, who will be 60 this fall, walked with the rest of the class of 2023 Saturday at Mount St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland. He left school 37 years ago to sign as an undrafted free agent with the then Washington Redskins.
The Bucs social media team shared a video of Todd Bowles, in his cap and gown, walking onstage to pick up his degree. As the crowd cheered, he smiled and shook the hand of the dean.
“Congrats on graduating, coach!,” the Bucs tweeted. “Todd Bowles made a promise to his mother when he entered the league that he would complete his degree, and today that promise was fulfilled.”
Bowles said he finished his degree work back in September. He then went through the season with the Bucs and decided to walk with his class in May. He missed his own traditional ceremony in the spring of 1986 after he finished his college playing career at Temple, but not his degree.
“Completing my degree was something I had always wanted to do over the years, because it was something I had promised my mother when I went to play in the NFL,” Todd Bowles told the Tampa Bay Times. “And I wanted to follow through on that promise.
“Over the years, as I became a father, it became something I wanted to do in order to set a proper example for my sons as they continue on their educational paths,” he said. “I have also worked pretty extensively with children through my various community projects. And I felt it was important to show them they can achieve whatever they set their mind to.”
He earned a Bachelor of his Science degree in youth and community development. Anthony Agnone, Bowles’ longtime friend and agent, is an alum of Mount St. Mary’s. He suggested the school to Bowles. The coach returned in the summer of 2020 and enrolled in the Accelerated and Adult Undergraduate Program.
Since he left college the first time, Todd Bowles played in the NFL for seven seasons. He worked as an assistant coach for two college teams before going onto the NFL. By 2015, he was head coach of the New York Jets. In February, 2021, he was defensive coordinator for the Bucs when they beat Kansas City in the Super Bowl. His defensive scheme gave Patrick Mahomes fits. Tampa promoted him to head coach when Bruce Arians retired the next season.
Todd Bowles didn’t need a college degree to reach the highest level of his profession. But he offered a terrific example to persistance, even if it takes decades.