His hips: “Very fluid,” said Bentley football coach Thom Boerman
. “He's a slasher kind of back. He'll find the seam. He can move in a sliver as well as anybody. Slow to the hole, bursts through the hole — that's what he was."
His heart: “He had a huge game one Friday night,” said Sean Walsh
, who coaches the running backs at Bentley.
“Afterward, a reporter wanted to do an interview. Bobby wouldn't do it without the other running backs who had played that night. I'd never seen that. It sounds corny, but a guy who had that much talent — he dominated the game — but he knew the other guys helped make it possible and wanted them to get credit too.”
On Thursday night at Montvale Plaza in Stoneham, Tarr was on the receiving end of the Jerry Nason Award , presented annually by the New England Football Writers Association to a senior football player who has persevered through adversity. Walsh was his presenter.
But before Tarr could even get on the field for Bentley, he was fighting to hold onto his two extraordinary gifts.
He played through his senior season at Fenwick like an archer competing with a broken bow.
Tarr's hips, his bread and butter at the head of Dave Woods's I-formation, were giving him fits.
“It started at the beginning of the year in a scrimmage,” he said. “It started hurting, then just got worse and worse throughout the year. I just had a hip impingement. The way I grew into my body I guess my hip socket, hip joint, grew weird. My bones were rubbing against each other. There was a torn labrum in there.”
Woods tried to be patient, like a baseball coach carefully managing his starter's pitch-count.
“One day we took him out of the game after we had a decent lead,” Woods said. “The other team started to come back so he said, ‘Coach, put me in.’
“I didn't want to, but he said it again. I said, ‘fine,’ so we put him in for one play. He limped onto the field, broke one for 80 yards, got up and limped off the field.
“When he got hurt, he played better. He was more focused. He had the ability to shut pain out and play through some injuries that a lot of guys wouldn't.”
Tarr ran for more than 2,500 yards that season. Afterward, he had hip surgery that forced him to miss his senior year on the lacrosse team in order to be ready for his freshman year at Bentley.
He wasn’t at Bentley more than a couple weeks before he was sent home with what was thought to be a very bad cold. Then he woke up in the middle of the night with severe chest pain.
His mom drove him to Anna Jaques Hospital in Newburyport, where doctors thought he was having a heart attack. Tarr was given medication and sent straight to Massachusetts General Hospital in an ambulance.
There he found out it was myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.
“Football was still on my mind,” he said. “I guess I was a little naïve about the whole thing.”
Boerman said: “I really wouldn't have been surprised after hip surgery, and that heart problem, if he said, ‘I need to step away from the game and take care of my health and academic chores.’ Instead, he continued to pursue football.”
Tarr's freshman year was lost; red-shirted and rehabbed.
In 2010, Tarr's second season on the team, he rushed for 600 yards on a team that thrived off throwing the ball 50 times a game. He averaged 6.2 yards per carry.
His junior and senior years were more of the same. He still battled the injuries, including a concussion, and mononucleosis, but he kept running, compiling almost 1,400 yards combined over the two seasons.
“The year before Bobby started to play, we were averaging 52 yards per game,” Boerman said. “Not a very productive ground game.”
Tarr's last two seasons, the Falcons averaged 164 and 124 yards per game, respectively.
“Bobby demonstrated you go in every day and work,” Boerman said. “There's no up day, no down day. Get in there and do it all to be part of a successful team and framework. He did it with a smile.”
Tarr's knees are a mess. He said he'll stay away from the treadmill for a long time.
His hips aren't doing any better. He could probably use a cane, but he already feels like an old man. Down the road, he figures, he'll need hip replacements.
He knew what he was doing, like signing a deal with the devil, trading pain now, and far more later on, for a few successful years on the gridiron.
Tarr left his mark, though. In the history books, with his coaches, and with his teammates.
Westford to honor Scollan
It'll be a strange but deserving scene at Westford Academy on Saturday at 3 p.m., when the Grey Ghosts' boys' basketball team will open its season against Waltham without Ed
Scollan on the bench for the first time since 1985.
Scollan, who retired last season after 26 years coaching Westford, will have the gym dedicated in his name in a pregame ceremony.
Ipswich High seeks grid coach
Ipswich High will be accepting applicants for head football coach through Jan. 15. More information can be obtained by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.Jason Mastrodonato can be reached at email@example.com.