John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs It might have been the last thing Bob Harris wanted to talk about when his phone rang Thursday morning.
Harris has worked as an assistant football coach for more than 45 years in Steamboat Springs and Hayden. Like most assistants, he has spent most of his career trying to stay out of the spotlight, so it’s not surprising he didn’t want me to make a big deal about his decision to leave coaching.
“I’m not sure. … You never know what next year might bring,” Harris said.
It’s not that Harris isn’t a great guy. But when it comes to talking to a reporter about his many accomplishments in our community, the typically talkative guy gets a little quiet. What else would you expect from a guy who works with offensive linemen?
I called him after learning that he no longer was working the sideline in Hayden, where he has been defensive coordinator and line coach for seven seasons.
Harris, who recently turned 70, didn’t feel like he had the time to commit to the players this season. He’s been busy taking care of his 92-year-old mother, who recently moved into an assisted living center in Fowler.
It’s just the second time in 46 high school football seasons (he had a short-lived retirement in 1999) that Harris has not coached.
Throughout the years, he’s proven that he’s a coach who cares about his players. Harris always has been a coach who wanted to teach more than he wanted to win.
But the coach isn’t concerned about his absence on the field — he’s been in the stands for every Hayden home game. He thinks Hayden has good coaches to fill his shoes, and he’s more concerned about the things he will miss.
“I really miss working with the kids,” Harris said. “I’m not going to miss the long bus trips to places like Hotchkiss or Paonia or driving 25 miles to and 25 miles from Hayden every day for practice, but I’m going to miss the kids.”
During his time in Hayden, the Tigers advanced to the playoffs five times and grew into one of the state’s more competitive programs.
Harris credits his players and the leadership of head coach Shawn Baumgartner for the success. But you can’t look past his impact and the success that has followed him during his coaching career.
Harris also was part of winning programs as defensive coordinator in Steamboat Springs (1965 to 1999, 2001 to 2003), and he was with the Sailors in 1979 when the team won the state title.
The lessons Harris has taught reach beyond the gridiron. He also coached middle school football and middle school track, and he was the head coach of the Steamboat Springs basketball team that beat Weld Central to win the state title in 1971.
There is no question that Harris has plenty to talk about after a long and successful coaching career, but he doesn’t need to talk. His results speak for him.
— To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com