Fall Friday nights have been spent on the Columbus North sidelines for half of Bob Bishop’s nearly 90 years on earth.

For 85-year-old Tom Hawes, he has been alongside Bishop on the Bull Dogs’ chain gang for the past 35 football seasons.

Since Bishop and Hawes weren’t getting any younger, they decided to retire from their duties as chain gang members prior to this season. Bishop wasn’t necessarily ready to give it up, but his children talked him into it.

“They said, ‘You’re going to be 90 years old in a couple months. It’s time you got out of that,'” Bishop said. “I could still run, but getting hit out of bounds by players was what their concern was.”

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That also was one of Hawes’ concerns. As the seasons wore on, he also found it more difficult to keep up with the rest of the chain gang members following long plays that went from one end of the field to the other.

Hawes figured since Bishop retired, it was a good time for him to step aside, as well.

“It was a lot of fun,” Hawes said. “It was a ball. You had the best seat in the house. I didn’t get knocked down too many times, but a couple. You just go stumbling back into the crowd, and somebody catches you.”

Hawes, who will turn 86 on Saturday, doesn’t remember missing any home games at North.

The 1950 Columbus High School graduate went out for football as a freshman. Several 18-, 19-, 20- and 21-year-olds came back from the service that year to finish their senior years and also played football.

“I liked the sport,” Hawes said. “I just wasn’t big enough to play with those men that came back from the service.”

Bishop, who turns 90 on Dec. 9, played football for a short time in his hometown of St. Johns, Michigan. He moved to Columbus in 1964.

A couple years before Columbus split into two high schools, Bishop began working on the chain gang. His son had a friend whose father had worked on it, and he invited Bishop to be a substitute. Then, a guy retired, and Bishop moved in full-time and stayed there for 45 years.

“It’s the best seat in the house,” Bishop said. “I was only taken out once. That’s the only peril. I was able to avoid it the rest of the time.”

Sara Wasmuth has been a part of North’s chain gang for about 15 years. She said Bishop and Hawes showed a great amount of perseverance to stand and look into the sun, stand through rain or snow and devote their time and efforts for so many years.

Wasmuth said Bishop’s and Hawes’ accountability to their commitment was remarkable.

“Both of these guys are just quality, quality men,” Wasmuth said. “They devoted a lot of Friday nights to Columbus North. Their blood definitely runs blue.”

With their retirement, Wasmuth had to find a couple of new members for the chain gang to help her and holdover Jim Miller. She picked up Mark Rape, and Rape recruited Zak Ruehman.

Ruehman played football for the Bull Dogs, graduating in 2013. He graduated from Purdue this spring and is back in Columbus working at Strand Associates.

“It’s cool to be back on the field again just helping out with the games and being able to do something,” Ruehman said. “I always saw the chain gang and didn’t really think I’d ever end up there.”

At issue

Columbus North’s football chain gang members:

Last year: Bob Bishop, Tom Hawes, Jim Miller, Sara Wasmuth

This year: Miller, Mark Rape, Zak Ruehman, Wasmuth

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.