Emotional funeral for T.J. Bowden, grandson of FSU coaching legend Bobby Bowden

6:55 PM, Dec 30, 2013   |    comments
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Winter Haven, FL -- T.J. Bowden, the grandson of former FSU football coaching legend Bobby Bowden, was laid to rest in Winter Haven Monday.

T.J., 23, drowned after a roll-over car wreck last week in Winter Haven that also took the life of the driver.

With his famous grandfather walking just steps behind, friends carried the casket through the doors of St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Winter Haven.

"Heartbreaking," said Toni Schaller, a family friend. "And watching all the other young people suffer- it's pretty heartbreaking."

It's estimated more than 700 people paid their respects to T.J., who was a passenger in a deadly rollover wreck this past Thursday.

The accident also took the life of his friend who was driving, 25-year-old Rafael Valini.

The rear-seat passenger, 22-year-old Robert Edwards survived, but those we spoke with say they didn't see Edwards at today's service.

"T.J. was loved by everybody. He had a heart of gold and anybody that came into his life was truly blessed," said Kerry Erfurth, a family friend.

Those in attendance say Bobby Bowden did not speak at the funeral. But that T.J.'s friends did.

They described the recent FSU graduate as one of the most positive people they'd ever known.

"And he had so much energy and life," said Melissa Erfurth, who is the girlfriend of T.J.'s roommate.

"He's much more than just Bobby Bowden's grandson," said Megan Vanderbars, a friend from FSU. "And that's what people need to realize."

T.J. Bowden was a criminal justice major. He enjoyed Soccer, and, as you might expect, was a huge Florida State Football fan.

During the funeral mass, a frind named Joel even shared a now-haunting story of how, as a 6th grader, T.J. had drawn a picture of his own gravestone.

"And he had a Florida State symbol on it, and it said 'Here lies the biggest FSU fan.' He just wanted to be remembered like that," said Vanessa Avila, a close friend.

Accident investigators were still awaiting toxicology reports, but have said from the start they believe alcohol was a factor in the deadly crash.

A Polk Co. Sheriff's Office spokesperson says it could be several weeks before those test are completed.

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