Former Stanford football standout Bill Tarr passes away


Bill Tarr, the former Stanford football captain who passed away Jan. 29 at age 80, completed his collegiate career in 1955 as the school's all-time leading rusher.

However, a mere record -- 1,593 yards in 358 carries -- does not describe the player that Tarr was.

"I've been in athletics all my life," said Paul Wiggin, an All-America teammate of Tarr's and later head coach at Stanford and in the National Football League. "And there are people at their best when you need them the most. They are rare. He was one of those guys."

When Tarr arrived out of Bellingham, Wash., it was obvious he would be special.

"This boy is a fine all-around football player," wrote Stanford athletic news director Don Liebendorfer in the team's 1954 press guide. "A terrifically hard runner with good speed and running sense, he is planning on making the goal line every time he carries the ball. Driving, reckless type of player who is all out on every play."

With Tarr, it wasn't just his substantial production -- he led the Pacific Coast Conference in rushing in 1954 with 729 yards -- it was his effort, leadership and inspiration that best defined him.

It also was those bright blue eyes, blond hair and square jaw.

"He had that golden air," Wiggin said. "He was the handsomest of the guys. The rest of us looked like buffoons next to him."

During his Stanford varsity playing career from 1953-55, Tarr was named captain, earned two Irving S. Zeimer awards as the team's most valuable player, and was named was Most Inspirational Senior as the recipient of the Jim Reynolds Award.

"He has some of the best running sense seen in a Stanford back for years," Liebendorfer wrote. "Has unusual body balance which stands him in good stead when he is hit, and usually is good for additional yardage after a tackler makes contact."

Tarr played in an era that would change drastically in the coming years. In the 1950's offenses remained largely one-dimensional and defenses were girded firmly against the run. It also was the waning days of the 60-minute player. Tarr played fullback and linebacker, intercepting four passes in 1954.

"The day I remember more than any other day in football was when we played national power Ohio State," Wiggins said. "They had a Heisman Trophy winner named (Howard) 'Hopalong' Cassady, who ran for about 30 yards against us. Bill ran for more than a 100."

Stanford won the 1955 nationally televised game against the eighth-ranked Buckeyes, 6-0. Indeed, Stanford held Cassady, who would win the Heisman that year, to 37 and Tarr gained 102.

Against USC at the Los Angeles Coliseum in 1955, Tarr intercepted a pass and returned it 55 yards for a touchdown in Stanford's 28-20 victory. He completed his Stanford career with a 19-0 victory over Cal. It was Stanford's first Big Game victory in nine years.

The Indians, Stanford's nickname then, went a combined 16-12-2 during Tarr's three varsity seasons -- freshmen were not eligible then -- all under coach Chuck Taylor. Tarr averaged 4.4 yards per carry over his career, had 18 catches for 232 yards, scored 16 touchdowns, and intercepted six passes.

A dentistry major, Tarr became a dentist, settling down and raising a family in Menlo Park.

Tarr's Stanford career rushing record stood for a decade, until Ray Handley broke it with 1,789. Today, Stepfan Taylor (2009-12) holds the mark, with 4,300.

But Tarr's career wasn't about numbers, it was about so much more.

"Everybody loved him," Wiggin said. "You can talk to a number of people associated with Stanford football and they will tell you Bill Tarr is one of the special guys in history."

A memorial service for Mr. Tarr will be held Feb. 20 at 11 a.m. at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church.

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Like this comment
Posted by Dick Stark
a resident of another community
on Feb 12, 2015 at 1:08 pm

Bill Tarr was one of the all-time football greats at Stanford. He was a friend at Bellingham High School in Washington state. Bill was charismatic and loved by all who knew him, and ran like Seattle's Marshawn Lynxh. No large school recruited Bill because they thought he was too small. He led the Pacific coast conferencein rushing his junior and senior years, winning numerous awards. His final game against Washington in Seattle was called Bill Tarr day. Bill run for over 100 yards in the first half and scored a touchdown as Stanford won something like 14-7. John Brodie was his QB at Stanford. Bill had a great dental career in Palo Alto.

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