NEW YORK -- Bobby Bowden and Joe Paterno began 2006 by matching wits and teams in the Orange Bowl. The coaches will reunite in December to be inducted into the college football Hall of Fame.
And the winningest coaches in Division I-A history received yet another award Thursday, the National Football Foundation's Gold Medal.
"I'm a little bit overwhelmed," said the 79-year-old Paterno, heading into his 41st season at Penn State.
The NFF has honored a range of leaders, including presidents and actor John Wayne, since 1958.
"It's probably the highest honor I'll ever get," said the 76-year-old Bowden, a winner of two national titles with Florida State.
The late Pat Tillman, the former NFL player killed during a combat mission in Afghanistan, received the Distinguished American Award.
Longtime Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds received the John L. Toner Award for his contributions to football.
ESPN's College GameDay pregame show was given the Outstanding Contribution to Amateur Football Award and A.C. Butch Lambert Sr. and A.C. Butch Lambert Jr. received the Outstanding Football Official Award.
Lambert Sr. officiated for more than 30 years in the Southeastern Conference and was the SEC supervisor of officials until his death in 1985. Lambert Jr. spent 26 years as an official
in the SEC.
Bowden is No. 1 on the career victories list for major college football with 359 wins, with Paterno No. 2 at 354.
"Birmingham and Brooklyn," Bowden said, referring to his and Paterno's hometowns. :Who would have thought that we would have matched up?"
Paterno's Nittany Lions completed an 11-win season by beating Bowden and Florida State 16-13 in the Orange Bowl.