Bruce Widdows’ football idol as a kid was his brother-in-law, Allegany great Jim Daum, which, given the time Bruce grew up, is not surprising since Daumie loved all kids and all kids loved Daumie. But neither is it surprising that Bruce would have looked up to his brother-in-law and his game because Jim Daum was one of the toughest football players in the history of Cumberland football. And if you saw him play football in the mid-to-late 1970s for the Bishop Walsh Spartans and the Shepherd Rams, you’d know that Bruce Widdows was too.
Bruce started all four years at linebacker for Bishop Walsh, his freshman season of 1971 for head coach Mark Conway, his sophomore year for Rick Harris, and his junior and senior years for football legend Paul “Bubbles” Thompson.
Bruce’s senior season, the fall of 1974, he helped the Spartans to a 7-3 record, their first winning season in four years, and he was named first-team All-City. Now understand, in those days when the three City League coaches selected the All-City team, they did so with offensive positions: ends, tackles, guards, center and backs. Bruce’s senior year, there were two ends named first team, as well as two tackles, two guards and five backs, but no center. Instead, the coaches at the time, Thompson, Allegany’s George Stimmel and Fort Hill’s Charlie Lattimer decided this All-City team should have a linebacker on it, because if there were a 1974 All-City football team without Bruce Widdows’ name on it, well ... it wouldn’t be much of an All-City team.
Thus, from 1932 until 1981, when the coaches began to select teams on offense and defense, the first and only linebacker in the history of the All-City football team was Bishop Walsh High School’s Bruce Widdows. Such was the appreciation he had gained from his coach, Thompson, and the respect he had earned from the coaches of his school’s biggest rivals, Stimmel and Lattimer.
Next, it was on to Shepherd College, now Shepherd University, where Bruce played football for the Rams and the great Walter Barr.
Now, if you know anything about Shepherd football, you know one thing — Rams football is not for the faint of heart; it is for smart, tough, rugged football players, because since 1920 when the Rams played their first game, that is the kind of football Shepherd has been known for and has prided itself on. Not only are Shepherd guys tough, they are driven and they are loyal — to Shepherd and to each other. Naturally, Bruce Widdows fit right in.
In essence, this is the kind of guy Bruce Widdows is. He’s true to his family and his friends. He’s loyal to his schools, Bishop Walsh and Shepherd, and he’s loyal to football, the game he loves, and to his community. Having coached football through the years at Bishop Walsh and Fort Hill, and for the Saints and Bishop Walsh youth teams, Bruce will help any kid be the best football player he can be, and to love and appreciate the game and the way it is meant to be played. For, aside from the joy of playing, football provides its players with responsibility and accountability where it matters the most — outside the white lines of the field.
You don’t need to read this to know Bruce Widdows. You’ve seen him coaching, you’ve seen him making deliveries for FedEx Ground for the past 10 years. You’ve seen him every month at lunch with his 1975 Bishop Walsh classmates.
You know Bruce Widdows. We all know him, which, sadly, means we know he has been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis — ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease — the rare disease that has become all too common.
There will be a golf tournament on Saturday, Sept. 22, 10 a.m., at the Winnfield Golf Club to assist Bruce financially, and it is being put on by his friends and classmates. Following the golf there will be a fund-raiser at Woodchucks, 867 Greene Street in Cumberland. It will be the kind of fund-raiser and party that Bruce has taken part in for so many others.
Enter a team in the golf tournament. Enter individually and you will be assigned to a team for as long as openings exist. If you don’t play golf, make a cash donation and attend the after-golf fund-raiser. Sponsor a hole. Donate gift certificates. Donate merchandise. Make any cash donation no matter the amount; it will go directly to Bruce.
For information, contact Bruce’s friend Drew Ingram, at 301-268-7533. He’ll be glad to stop by and see you if you wish to donate. Or mail your donation to Drew’s address of 15710 Collier Run Road, Cumberland. Any monetary gifts can be made out to Drew or to Bruce Widdows.
Bruce needs our help; he needs our support. He is counting on our friendship and our accountability. The same friendship and accountability he has always provided us.
Mike Burke is sports editor of the Cumberland Times-News. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org