This is the first in a series of six articles profiling the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2018.
SHALER TWP — Bill Bair showed a lot of promise as an underclassman running back for the Mars football program.
Beginning with his junior year, that potential exploded all over opposing defenses. By the time his scholastic career was over, Bair had rushed for 4,702 yards and 65 touchdowns, both school records that still stand.
The 2008 graduate will be inducted into the Mars Athletic Hall of Fame in September.
While the honor is an individual one, Bair knows he had a lot of help along the way.
“My offensive line was awesome,” he said. “I never would have put up the numbers I did without them. If you watch the film, you can see, the holes they opened up were massive.”
Bair was the main cog in Mars’ running game in eighth and ninth grade. When he joined the varsity squad as a sophomore in 2005, he was playing behind senior Paul Ferrese, a returning 1,000-yard rusher.
But Bair gave Planet fans a taste of what was to come. In just 42 carries, he totaled 346 yards, an 8.2 yards-per-carry average.
In summer practices the following year, Bair prepared to take the reins of the Planet running game.
“I had a feeling I was going to have a big year,” he said. “I was getting a shot to be the starter and was looking to get back to putting up the kind of numbers I did a couple of years before that.”
The end result was a 1,928-yard, 28-touchdown junior season. Unfortunately, Bair’s season ended before that of the team.
Late in a WPIAL first-round playoff victory over Kittanning, Bair suffered a concussion on what proved to be his final carry of 2006.
He was hoping to play the following week against Greensburg Central Catholic, but found out shortly before the game that he was not cleared. Mars lost the contest, 38-19.
“I went through the impact tests the day before and the day of the game,” Bair said. “In the end, it just didn’t work out.
“I had a lot of friends who were seniors on that team and wanted to help us win and move on. I still think about it. It’s one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, sitting out that game.”
Bair was 6-foot-2 and weighed nearly 200 pounds and was tough to bring down for opposing defenses. But what set him apart was his speed.
When asked if he’d rather run over or past a defender for a touchdown, his response was quick.
“I had my fair share of broken tackles, but I’d rather outrun someone. There is no better feeling than blowing past a guy, knowing he wasn’t going to catch me.”
Bair’s speed helped Mars’ boys track and field team claim the WPIAL Class AA team title in 2007, but his most impressive athletic feat was yet to come.
In the fall of 2007, opposing teams knew what Mars was going to do. Bair was going to get the ball about 25 times per game, but knowing and stopping are two very different things.
The senior rumbled for 2,428 yards and scored 32 touchdowns in just 11 games. He won the Butler Eagle Scoring Trophy for the second straight year with 204 points in the regular season, still a Butler County record.
Bair still has fond memories of Senior Night that season when he shredded Mohawk’s defense for 243 yards and five touchdowns in a 42-6 win.
“Just being able to go out and play well and help us win, that was the culmination of my career,” he said.
Bair went on to play football at Duquesne University, helping the Dukes to a Northeast Conference title as a senior in 2011.
A resident of Shaler Township, Bair makes it back to the Mars Athletic Complex for a couple of Planet football games every season.
“You hear the term ‘Friday Night Lights,’” he said. “When I played, the feeling I had right before a big game is indescribable. I go back now and can almost smell it in the air. The band is playing and I feel like putting the pads back on.”