Bulldogs' longtime manager celebrates 20 years on RHS sidelines.
Over the last 20 years you knew where Drew Bahr was going to be during the high school football season.
On the sidelines with the Rolla Bulldogs.
That's exactly where he's been the past two decades. In fact, he's probably seen more Rolla High Bulldog football games than just about anyone.
And Friday night he will be honored for his loyalty to the program.
Bahr is celebrating his 20th year as serving as the Bulldogs' football manager this season. Prior to kickoff for Friday's Rolla's Homecoming Game against Springfield Glendale at Lions Memorial Field the school will honor him in a short ceremony.
It was 20 years ago that then RHS football head coach Gary Miles called Drew's mother, Mary Bahr, and asked if Drew could join the team as one of the managers.
Gary Miles got to know Drew, who was a classmate of Gary's son, Travis, at the Rolla Junior High School.
Drew has Down Syndrome and Gary Miles thought his being close to the team would be beneficial for both him and the squad.
He was correct then and, 20 years later, it's still the case.
"I think it's a learning experience for the players as well," said Miles, a member of the Missouri Football Coaches Association's Hall of Fame who retired as RHS head coach in 2002. "I had a similar situation when I coached at Centralia as well. I knew Drew was a big Bulldog fan and it was not only a chance to get him experience with the athletes first-hand, but for the players to be around and work with people who might be different.
"It made our players appreciate the gifts those people have and helped them in dealing with fellow classmates. It was a valuable experience for them."
Of course, it took some adjustment, both for Drew and the players and coaches.
"The first year we did it there was some concern as to how Drew was going to handle road trips," Miles said. "Our first road game that year was at (St. Francis) Borgia (in Washington). That was the year we had Steve Hodson and they had (future Mizzou record-setter) Brock Olivo in a battle of outstanding running backs. I had the headset on talking to Coach (David) Croft and my right sleeve was being yanked on over and over. I look over and it was Drew. I told him I was busy, what did he want? 'Hot dog,' he said. I said, 'Drew, I can't get you a hot dog right now. We'll have to wait until after the game.' So I go back to what I was doing and a few minutes later I look for Drew and can't find him anywhere. I tell Coach Croft on the headset, ' I think we've lost Drew.' He told me to look over towards the concession stand. There was Drew, walking over to the concession stand to get his hot dog by himself! I thought I'd lost him on our first road trip!"
Over the past 20 years there have been very few players who have been cruel. The vast majority of the players, coaches, fellow managers and players' parents, simply treat Drew as one of the Bulldog football family, which is what Miles had envisioned 20 years ago.
And so far that has included the RHS head-coaching stints Miles, Scott Stallcup, Brock Roweton, Josh Smith and currently Willie Howard. They all treat Drew as one of the 'Dogs. Indeed, Drew is part of generations of Bulldog players and coaches. Ex-players, now in the mid-30s, still come back and and inquire, "How is Drew?"
And Drew is a fan favorite as well as a player favorite. He knows how to fire up the home crowd, sprinting up and down the sidelines with the RHS flag. And if you want your picture taken with Drew, you don't have to ask him twice. In fact, he may ask you!
"He's treated as one of the guys," Howard said. "That's one of the best things I can say about our kids. Win or lose, Drew has always been one of the gang."
Howard says players and coaches appreciate what Drew brings to the program.
"Drew does his work," Howard said. "He cleans out the shed and the equipment. He takes great pride in his work."
Howard and his staff came up with the 20-year anniversary celebration idea for Drew.
"We were talking among ourselves and thought it was 20 years," Howard said. "I talked to Gary Miles and he confirmed it was 20.
"We had some Drew T-shirts made up. I thought we would sell 50-to-75 or so around school. But I didn't take into account it was going to be so big. When it made the Facebook circuit, we immediately sold out of T-shirts."
So far there have been around 400 Drew T-shirts sold and counting. The coaches were considering wearing the T-shirts at tonight's game in honor of him.
"We've sold A LOT of T-shirts!" Howard said.
So while celebrating RHS Homecoming, stop by and thank Drew for the 20 years of service he's given the Bulldogs.
It's been a labor of love on both ends.