Peterson: Through his struggles, Bobby Elliott became an inspiration for us all
That’s what everyone called this man who played football at Iowa and worked for the Hawkeyes and Iowa State during an impressive career that also had stops at Notre Dame, San Diego State, Kansas State and Nebraska on an eye-popping resume that includes being the son of a former Iowa athletics director.
Football wasn’t the only thing in his blood though and, sadly, that was his problem.
Bobby Elliott, 64, died Saturday after complications from cancer. Survivors include his wife, Joey, son Grant and daughter Jessica; and father, Chalmers “Bump” Elliott.
Bobby’s sickness first showed up in 1998 in a form of bone marrow disease. He would have been on Bob Bowlsby’s short list to replace Hayden Fry as Iowa’s football coach had he not been sick. He tried to keep his health problems a secret, but you know how those things go.
Elliott stepped away from coaching for a while as he underwent a tricky bone marrow procedure. Once well again, his best friend and college roommate, Dan McCarney, hired him to be one of his assistants at Iowa State.
Again, Bobby became sick.
Again, he kept working.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Randy Peterson's 2009 story on Bobby Elliott
This time, however, he wanted to put his thoughts on paper. He wanted something written for others in his situation to use as motivation — that there’s always hope. Mainly, he wanted his thoughts preserved forever — for his family.
At the beginning, even McCarney, his best friend, didn’t know that Bobby and I were meeting secretly in the defensive backs room at what was then Iowa State’s cramped football complex. For about 20 minutes each Monday or Tuesday, before afternoon practices, Bobby talked about his family. He talked about his children and how he prepared them for what he figured would soon be his final days. Each session, he mentioned the love he had for his wife, Joey.
Finally, on a Thursday night before a home football game against Kansas State, the phone rang.
It was Bobby. He was crying.
“You know that book? Well, it’s off,” he said, his tears obviously tears of joy. “I just talked the doctor. He said I’m going to live.”
No, Bobby. You just wrote a happily ever after ending.