One great season for Mars running back Bill Bair

Bill Bair has been slacking off this fall with chores on his family's vegetable farm in Mars. He hasn't been picking the vegetables much and hasn't been going to the farmers' market on weekends.

He hasn't been helping his mother take care of the horses, donkeys, pigs and sheep on the farm like he used to do. And he hasn't been cleaning the barns much.

But his mom is understanding.

"I don't mind it that much," Bair's mother, Laura King, said. "I know he's busy."

Busy running his way to WPIAL football history. It was a task Bill Bair completed Friday night.

William Emerson Bair III had one of the most prolific regular seasons of any running back in WPIAL history. He is a senior at Mars High School who lives on a farm, carries a 3.5 grade point average and calls reading one of his favorite hobbies. After rushing for 243 yards Friday against Mohawk, Bair is able to read his name on top of the list of regular-season greatness.

A 5-foot-11, 190-pound halfback, Bair finished the regular season with 2,112 yards on 219 attempts, possibly the best regular season in WPIAL history -- at least the best in the past three decades.

The Post-Gazette was the first to keep WPIAL statistical leaders, starting in 1979. Since then, the only running back to gain 2,000 yards in the regular season was Laurel Highlands' Jim Smith, who had 2,026 on 308 carries in 1989. Smith had a 10-game regular season while Mars (8-1) played only nine regular-season games.

Although there are no statistics to prove it, no one is known to have rushed for 2,000 yards in the regular season before Smith.

On top of that, Bair finished the regular season with 204 points, which ties Rochester's Essex Law for the most since 1979.

All these historical numbers make Bair's big brown eyes grow.

"I didn't know any of that. That's something," he said.

Mars opponents had Bair tracks all over them this season as the Planets finished with a perfect conference (Tri-County North) record for the first time in school history.

"I don't know if he understands the magnitude of what he's doing," Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. "I think for a coach who's been around for a while, I understand the magnitude of it, but not him."

No one is calling Bair the most talented running back in WPIAL history. No one is calling him the next Tony Dorsett. Bair is getting little Division I college interest -- and those that have shown interest might want him as a defensive back. He has good speed (4.5 seconds in the 40), but is not the speed-burner major colleges adore.

Bair might not even be the most talented running back in the WPIAL this season. But he is a great example of someone who is simply an excellent high school back and one of the most productive in league history. Billy Ball has brought life to Mars as he went over 4,000 career yards rushing last Saturday against Summit Academy, one of only 39 players in the WPIAL to reach the milestone.

But get this: Bair reached 4,000 in two years. Counting one playoff game last year, he had 1,928 yards. He has 4,040 the past two seasons.

Mars doesn't play in the strongest of conferences, but as Heinauer said, "I don't care who you're playing, that's a lot of yards."

And to think, Bair was a lineman until eighth grade.

"I grew early. That's why they always put me on the line," he said. "I was probably 5 feet 10, 165 pounds in eighth grade. I haven't grown much since."

Bair could be gaining yards at Pine-Richland High School. But he moved with his mother and two younger brothers from the Pine-Richland district to Mars in sixth grade when his mother married his stepfather, Larry King, whose family owns the 150-acre Harvest Family Farm.

"Billy and his brothers fight like crazy," Laura King said with a laugh. "It's not as bad now because Billy is a little more mature and doesn't beat up on them as much. But once upon a time, we'd go on a family vacation and I would have Billy bring a friend, just so he wouldn't ruin the vacation, beating up on his brothers."

Bill Bair laughs at the stories.

"I made my brothers tough," he said with a grin.

Bair's father, Bill II, runs a small store in Zelienople.

"Kind of like a flea market," the younger Bair said. "It's called Bill Bair's Hidden Treasures."

The son is a treasure as a running back, but certainly not hidden. He is becoming known all over Western Pennsylvania.

"I think he's a great running back because of his vision," Heinauer said. "He sees things other kids can't see."

Like greatness.

Mike White can be reached at or 412-263-1975. First Published October 29, 2007 4:00 AM


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