Public ceremony set for 'everyman' Bobby Elliott
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Bobby Elliott was more than just a football coach. He was an "everyman," according to Chuck Long, who saw Elliott charm strangers throughout their 22-year friendship.
"I saw him interact with kids, with families, with parents, the full gamut," Long said Monday. "He could talk to anybody at any time, from any background. That's a gift."
So it's appropriate that the public will get a chance to say farewell to Elliott the "everyman" at a celebration of his life at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hancher Auditorium on the University of Iowa campus. The building seats 1,800. Among those expected to eulogize Elliott, who died Saturday after a lengthy battle with cancer, are former Hawkeye athletes and close friends Dan McCarney and Bo Porter.
"Some coaches, they just want to talk about football. And you know those guys when you approach them. But Bob was never that way," Long said.
"He taught me so much about recruiting. How to get into a living room and get a family to trust you, and I watched him work that, which really has nothing to do with football."
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Long, a former star quarterback at Iowa, said it was Elliott who secured for him his first coaching job. This was in 1995, when Elliott stepped away from coaching for a year to be president of the university's alumni association. Long was interested in replacing Elliott as secondary coach, but he said then-head coach Hayden Fry was "lukewarm" to the idea.
Elliott told Fry that he would personally work with Long to get him up to speed.
"I didn't know anything about technique, and he came over every single day when they hired me and helped me with technique. That's Bob Elliott for you," Long said.
In 2006, when Long got his first head coaching job at San Diego State, he said his first call was to Elliott. The two worked together for three seasons.
"He was my voice of reason. Bob was the guy I went to for advice," Long said.
"He really didn't hesitate. He always had an answer for me. And that's experience and a guy who'd been through everything."
Elliott was an assistant coach, including three stints at Iowa State, for 38 years. The last half of his career was marked by periodic bouts with cancer and kidney failure.
"God knows what he was going through over a 20-year span. No one will ever know except for his wife, Joey. But he was tough. He never showed it," Long marveled.
"Here's the thing that's amazing about him. He's going through these issues and he's in coaching. Coaching will make a healthy person unhealthy. Just that alone. Because you don't sleep well. You don't eat well. You're eating at weird times during the day and at night. And you have the pressure of coaching, and you're usually not working out like you want or staying in shape. I see coaches that are healthy going in and not healthy going out just because of that.
"And here he is on top of that having his cancer issues. And he never took a day off."