(Editor’s note: MTN Sports began recognizing some of the best football players in Montana history on July 2 with the launch of the #MTTop40. The series started with defensive backs and will run eight weeks, featuring one position each week, concluding with quarterbacks the week of Aug. 20-24 to coincide with Montana’s high school football season opener. We’ve wrapped up the defense, also profiling the defensive linemen and linebackers. Now, we switch to the offense and start with the offensive linemen.)
No. 5 offensive lineman – Barry Darrow, Great Falls CMR
Montana has produced some tremendous offensive linemen over the years, including Milan Lazetich, who was earlier featured along with nephew Pete Lazetich. To start the #MTTop40 feature of linemen, we begin with an athlete who had a short high school career before excelling at the collegiate level and ultimately turning in a professional career: Barry Darrow.
Barry Darrow stat sheet
After growing up in Deer Lodge, Darrow attended high school at Great Falls CMR, where he graduated in 1968. A knee injury limited Darrow to just 13 games for the Rustlers under then-coach Sonny Holland, but, at 6-foot-6, his size and athleticism got Darrow the opportunity to play college football at Western Montana College (now the University of Montana Western).
Darrow spent just one season at right tackle at Western before transferring to the University of Montana in Missoula. He found immediate success with the Grizzlies, earning a starting spot on the offensive line in 1970. UM went 10-1 that season with the only loss coming to North Dakota State in the Camellia Bowl in Sacramento, Calif.
Darrow finished out his career at UM starting at guard in 1971 and 1972, earning all-American honors both seasons while blocking for running back Steve Caputo. Caputo averaged 6.43 yards per carry and 113.9 yards per game in 1971, totaling 1,253 yards, the sixth-best single season in Griz history.
Darrow was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the 17th round of the 1973 NFL Draft. Knee injuries again slowed Darrow’s career, but he caught on with the Cleveland Browns in 1974. Midway through the 1975 season, he had moved into the starting lineup at right tackle, where he would stay through the 1978 season. He retired in 1979 and moved back to Montana.
… on Darrow:
Former Montana teammate Mick Dennehy: “Barry and I played together. We graduated high school the same year. He played at CMR, I played at Butte High. He went to Western Montana College out of high school, then transferred after a year. We were running the wishbone (at the University of Montana). Barry was an offensive guard, and our guards were like 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-7 and pretty good athletes. Barry had really good feet. We had a run of athletes back then, offensive linemen, like we kind of had going through the middle to late 1990s. There were a whole bunch of kids that were all-Americans and had a chance to play in the NFL. You have Tuufuli Uperesa, who was there at that time, Steve Okoniewski, who played for three or four NFL teams, and Barry, of course. Willie Postler was a Canadian who played in the CFL for, I don’t know, a dozen years. Really good group of offensive linemen, and I think that’s the key in guys like Barry, who were surrounded by really good guys as well, it gave them a little bit of latitude and really helped them, I think, become dominating when they were big enough and strong enough and good enough athletically to not have to rely on a tackle coming down and helping them, particularly in the wishbone we were running at that time.”