Vidakovich column: Catching up with Bobby Speed
His Sayre Park nickname was Bobby Speed.
During the heyday of the asphalt basketball courts at Sayre Park, when summer evenings in the late 1970s brought young hopefuls out to polish their game under the bright lights on south Grand Avenue, everyone who was a regular at Sayre had a nickname.
Along with Bobby Speed (Barrows also referred to himself as Sir Nathan Wheels, giving reference to his middle name), there was Ecch, Pipe, Johnny Mac, All-World, Dee Mags, Gate the Skate, Wesley P., Gil the Pill, The Sleeper, and Pete the Leaper, just to name a few.
At one point, when Gil (Keith Gilstrap) came out to the park on a spring Saturday afternoon and kept singing Glen Campbell’s popular song of the time, “Rhinestone Cowboy,” we started referring to him as such. He didn’t much care for it, so we told him to stop singing. That pretty much ended the short saga of Sayre Park’s Rhinestone Cowboy.
During his prime, if you tried to guard Bob Barrows on a basketball court, you would fully understand the moniker he was given. At barely 5-foot-10, Barrows could also get off his quick feet pretty well, being able to dunk the basketball with the best of them. I certainly couldn’t slow him down and I don’t really know of anyone around these parts that could. His senior season at Glenwood Springs High School was 1982 and Bobby Speed ended up being another in a long line of Coach Bob Chavez’s all-state guards. A loss in the regional playoffs that year at Nucla prevented Bob from ever getting to play in the state tournament, but his noticeable talents landed him a scholarship from Mesa College basketball coach Doug Schakel.
Barrows went on to have a standout career at Mesa and establish himself in his four years at the Grand Junction school as one of the top guards in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. In fact, Barrows is still the all-time single season and career assists leader at the school. Pretty impressive stuff.
Following college, Barrows wasn’t anywhere near ready to walk away from his beloved game of hoops. After serving as a student teacher and assistant basketball coach at his alma mater in Glenwood, Bobby Speed accepted a PE teaching job and head boys’ basketball coaching position at Platte Valley High School in Kersey, Colorado. It was a job that was a challenge, to say the least. The Platte Valley Broncos had not won a game the past three seasons prior to Barrow’s arrival, so his rebuilding task was a monumental one.
As we all knew that he would, Barrows soon took the Broncos from obscurity to one of the top programs in class 3A. The success he built in Kersey led to an offer to take over the head boys’ basketball position at Littleton High School in Denver. Barrows would also serve as the school’s dean of students.
Success followed him to Littleton as it did during the rest of his teaching and coaching career, which included a stint as the principal at Denver’s Englewood High School. Barrows is now semi-retired, but he still serves as a special education consultant for the District 51 schools in Grand Junction, his old college stomping ground.
Whenever I get a phone call late at night, I know there is a good chance it is my buddy Bobby Speed wanting to catch up with what’s going on in Glenwood. He’s famous for these types of communications when most people are snoozing. Sure enough, I got one of those calls just a few weeks back.
It seems as though Bob has been grounded a bit for the time being, after having reconstructive knee surgery. But just like everything else in his life, he has approached the minor setback with a positive attitude and an all systems full ahead approach.
Barrows said life is good and he had just returned home from his daughter’s senior night game in Lincoln, Nebraska where she is a college guard for the Nebraska Wesleyan basketball team. He’s looking forward to getting back on his feet and hitting some balls on the golf course this summer, and being able to take trips to warmer climates with his wife. Much like me, he’s had enough of the winters in Colorado.
We chit-chatted for a while, as old friends do, and he promised to drop by the house and see me the next time he comes through Glenwood.
Barrows has slowed down a bit for now, but it won’t last long. He has always been a go-getter who dares life to catch up with him. It can’t be done. No one can ever catch Bobby Speed.
Glenwood Springs native Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer, teacher and youth sports coach. His column appears on occasion in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.
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