Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown
Brian De Roo? Meet Bobby Beathard.
The year was 1978. De Roo, a senior decathlete from the University of Redlands, had already completed his four-year football-playing career with the Bulldogs the previous November.
But his career wasn’t yet over.
DeR oo was cleaning the bathrooms underneath the home side of what would someday become Ted Runner Stadium – the school’s football and track facility.
“My fun job,” said De Roo, the good-natured multiple sport athlete.
One spring day, De Roo recalled a pink Cadillac rolling up the hill into the parking lot just outside the school’s 7,000-seat stadium.
“Back then,” he said, “the foliage was not so high and thick. You could see through the fencing.”
A curvy blond got out of the car. Another person, “a dude in shorts and a T-shirt got out.”
De Roo watched them come down the hill. “They asked me if I know where they could find me.”
In other words, they were looking for De Roo.
“I obviously told them that they already did.”
That man, who turned out to be Bobby Beathard, introduced himself. The man was there to scout De Roo. The NFL draft was nearing. De Roo’s name had already started surfacing in various scouting services.
Beathard asked De Roo if he could find a football to throw around.
Said De Roo: “The equipment room was locked up and the only coach around was Vince Reel.”
Reel, who was the school’s track & field coach, refused the request for a ball.
“Vince didn’t want his decathlete that used to compete in seven or more events during dual meets to be pulling anything running pass patterns during track season,” said De Roo, “so he refused to get me a ball.”
It didn’t take long for Beathard and his blond companion to turn tail and take off.
Beathard, for his part, was announced as an NFL Hall of Famer on Feb. 3, 2018 – forty years after meeting up with De Roo.
As for that year’s draft, consider that Washington – due to the various transactions of former coach George Allen – didn’t have a single pick available until the sixth round. They took running back Tony Green from Florida.
De Roo, meanwhile, was taken in the previous round – one of three picks that round of the New York Giants.
By the eighth round, the Redskins had their second pick. Turned out to be a wide receiver from North Carolina, Walker Lee.
De Roo said his eventual team, the Baltimore Colts, would occasionally scrimmage Beathard’s team, the Washington Redskins, “since they were just down the road.
“We had a good chuckle over his visit a few years later.”
Beathard’s NFL connections were electric – 1972-77 as Director of Player Personnel with two-time Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins, plus a 1978-89 stint as General Manager with the Redskins, where he was part of two Super Bowl championships.
De Roo said he noted the Hall of Fame announcements, saying he was “happy for (Beathard) and most of the others. (Baltimore Ravens’ linebacker) Ray Lewis was a no-brainer.”
In fact, Beathard’s visit to Redlands in the pink Cadillac with the blond might have been a Hall of Fame move for the Redskins – if only they could’ve found a ball.