Wally Burnham was a Florida State assistant, coaching linebackers from 1985-93. Burnham (pictured above) goes back almost to the leather helmet days. Now 69, he's coached for 40-plus seasons, including USF until recently. Now DC at Iowa State, Burhnam shared stories of his recruiting days at FSU with the Des Moines Press Register.
“We were recruiting a kid out of Fort Meyers, and it was between Florida State and Notre Dame,” Burnham said. “We had an official recruiting weekend coming up, but I wanted to see the kid, so I got coach Bowden and we flew down to Fort Meyers.
“We had it all set up that we’d get to the kid’s home and have breakfast with his mom. A guy picked us up at the airport, takes us to the recruit’s apartment, and I knock on the door.”
“Now keep in mind that coach Bowden didn’t even want to make the trip, anyway, and it’s early in the morning,” Burnham continued. “I knocked two or three more times.”
Still no answer.
“All of a sudden, I saw a note stuck to the door. The mom left a note that said ‘Sorry, can’t be here. Had to go shopping.’"
They returned to the airport, where they boarded the chartered plane.
“Coach Bowden — he didn’t say a word on the way back,” Burnham said. “He went to sleep, and when we got back to Tallahassee, I figured he was going to fire me as soon as we got back in the office.”
Burnham kept his job and the recruit ended up at Notre Dame.
“It was about 2 in the morning when the phone rang, and it was Tony’s uncle. It was back in the day when a coach delivered the papers to the recruit, and the boy’s uncle told me that (former Georgia coach Ray Goff) is about 30 miles outside of town.
“The uncle told me that Ray was going to park in the yard at Tony’s house,” continued Burnham, who would not provide the players’ last name, “and he said that if I wanted Tony, that I’d better get up out of bed and get there, because the kid’s going to sign with whoever gets there first.”