The sad news of Bob McNamara's death Sunday night caused me to reflect on times I spent around Bob and what a genuinely nice and caring man he was to everyone in his presence. I didn't know him well, but he always treated me like a friend.
I started covering Gophers football in 2003 but actually met Bob a year early at a "Save Gopher Sports" fundraiser that he helped put together. Three non-revenue sports were in danger of being eliminated until Bob, and others, stepped forward to raise enough money to save them.
That was Bob McNamara in a nutshell.
You won't find a more passionate and loyal Gopher fan than McNamara. I'm guessing most big-time college programs have their own version of Bob McNamara, but I was always impressed by how deeply McNamara cared about the Gophers. It came through in every conversation I ever had with him.
Usually a few times a year, my editor Dennis Brackin and I would have lunch with Bob. Sometimes he'd invite a few of his friends. I got a kick out of hearing stories about their playing days and what Gophers football meant in this town back then.
A few years ago after Nebraska had joined the Big Ten, I interviewed Bob about the fact that he went 3-0 against Nebraska as a player. He joked that he liked to use that personal trivia on occasion.
"I'll see if I can make a bet, see if anyone will believe me," he said.
Another memory came during Tim Brewster's first season as football coach. I was still the beat writer, and Brewster allowed me to shadow him the week of the season opener.
One morning, I was in a meeting room with Brewster and his staff when an assistant knocked on the door at 7:30 a.m. He told Brewster that Bob McNamara was in his office.
McNamara had stopped by to discuss a fundraising idea for TCF Bank Stadium with Brewster and to wish him luck in his first game as Gophers coach.
That was Bob McNamara.