REDLANDS -- The Redlands Benchwarmers held the Brian Billick Roast on Thursday, March 7, at the Burrage Mansion. But about the only roast was the roast beef the guests were served.
Mainly the speakers – Paul Barich, Sam Trad, Brian DeRoo and Darryl Womack – spoke fondly of Billick and spun yarns on a balmy evening in the historic part of Redlands.
Pulling up to the sprawling mansion grounds and spying the many late-model luxury cars, I noticed I was the only guest driving a Toyota Corolla. I regretted not washing it.
Those self-conscious feelings didn’t diminish as I walked into the beautiful mansion with its colorful fountain and elegant beige arches.
But soon I ran into my two favorite octogenarians, Al Sanchez and Dave Farmer, and I felt right at home.
Womack later needled Sanchez during his roast of Billick when he asked if poor Al was still awake. That drew some laughs and Sanchez didn’t seem to mind.
While the night was lean on true roast material, Womack did make light of Billick by producing a “limited edition, collectable” Brian Billick bobblehead.
“I had to go digging in my attic for this,” said Womack whose father Paul coached Billick at Redlands High. “And no, I didn’t have it on my dresser.”
Womack also recited a poem in honor of Billick, the Redlands High graduate who led the Baltimore Ravens to a victory over the New York Giants in Super Bowl XXXV. The poem was a highlight of the event and here is a portion of it:
“We’ve come here tonight at Brian’s expense for some laughter and stories and fun. So make sure you have a cold drink in your hand cuz we’ll toast him as soon as I’m done.
A Terrier from the beginning and a starter for three solid years, Brian starred on both offense and defense and earned more than his fair share of cheers.
Surrounded by Terrier greatness, we all remember the name. Brian was something special, and he helped win a whole bunch of games.
He set a record for most interceptions, had a nose for the ball and hit hard. As a QB he had 31 completions, can’t say they threw it all over the yard.”
Following Womack’s tribute, Billick took the microphone. He provided most of the guffaws of the evening. Included was a tale about him winning a game against the Atlanta Falcons and afterward his 87-year-old mother getting on the phone after and lambasting him about the number of F-bombs he dropped on national television.
“I immediately reverted back to being 12 years old,” Billick said.
Billick also told of getting cut as a player by the San Francisco 49ers and getting pulled over by a cop while driving his Volkswagen Bug from the Bay Area to Redlands.
“The guy looked in my front seat and saw all my 49er gear and said, ‘What’s all that?’” Billick said.
Billick explained he was cut by the Niners and hoped the gendarme might cut him slack. Instead, the cop said, “Gee, today’s not really your day,” and wrote a ticket.
Billick is a polished and entertaining speaker. He kept the laughs coming and even struck a serious chord when he said, “We have good young people now, but they need guidance. They need pointing in the right direction.”
That guidance is a main purpose of the Benchwarmers, who have been helping the youth of Redlands for 70 years.
Following the roast I caught Billick alone. I utilized my icebreaker, noting that we both coached former pro football quarterback Trent Dilfer – though my efforts came in youth basketball.
Billick was gracious. And when I asked him what he thought of the night, he said, “It’s wonderful. It’s really great to be back home.”
John Murphy may be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PrepDawg17.