From By Record Staff to By Tori Ziege
Robert ‘Bob’ Fee Sr. is a treasure lost in the sea of internet search history. His story is one that cannot be told through the immediacy of a keystroke, or a skim of headlines turned up on Google search.
Amidst the ads for Bob Fee the insurance agent and Bob Fee the CEO, there is one image of our Bob Fee, the Boston Patriot, posing on the back of a vintage football card. Behind his facemask lies a remarkable story, one of a Chelsea High School native, driven to success by the experiences he garnered from his Chelsea home.
Fee ruled the roost at Chelsea High in 1952. An athlete of all trades, he participated year round in baseball, basketball, track, and football. Of the four sports, Fee captained the latter two, and was the only football player from Chelsea to ever make the All-American team.
All-American, all-scholastic, Fee was highly sought after by prestigious football colleges across the country: including Michigan, West Point, and Notre Dame. But it was an unlikely decision that lead the born and bred Massachusetts defensive end to Indiana University.
“Indiana was a Big Ten school, and at that time, the Big Ten was the best league in the country,” he said. “I thought it’d be a nice challenge to play in the best league, for a team that didn’t win a lot, and see if I could help them win.”
Most athletes would choose the school best equipped to foster their talents, but not Fee. He wanted to use his skills and determination to better the program around him, a trait he forged back in his days at Chelsea High.
“In high school, I learned from my professors that I’m number two, and everybody else is number one,” he said.
Back in 1953, it was still required for football players to participate on both sides of the ball.
Fee played offensive and defensive end at Indiana for three seasons. Yet it was his senior year, with all three of the team’s previous fullbacks gone and graduated, that Fee’s biggest contribution would come.
Fee converted to fullback in his final season at IU. Though he had little to no experience in the fullback position, that year, he became the highest ground gainer in the history of the school. His crowning achievement came against Michigan, Fee’s former recruiter, when he was asked to cover Heisman trophy winning wide receiver Ron Kramer.
Rather than having Fee line up in his usual position, IU Coach Bernie Crimmins charged Fee with the task of following Kramer wherever he went. The defensive end shut down the wide receiver, intercepting two passes that were targeted at Kramer, now an NFL Hall of Famer.
Fee ran his second interception at midfield down to the one yardline, where he scored as a fullback the very next play. After the game, Fee said he and Kramer were the last players to head to the locker room. The two remained on the field long past the final whistle, discussing the ins and outs of their game.
Kramer wasn’t the only Hall of Famer to marvel at the talents of this small town Chelsea athlete. During his senior year, Fee caught the game winning touchdown at the collegiate All-Star game.
The pass was thrown by none other than Len Dawson, who went on to be a Super Bowl winning quarterback and MVP for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Yet Fee said he remembers hardly any of the AllStar game. Instead, his sights were focused on the sidelines, where a cluster of young hospital patients were gathered in special honor.
There was one child in particular that Fee connected with. He bought the ten yearold an ice cream cone during pregame warmups, where a fellow teammate had the foresight to snap a picture.
Patient and player bonded, and the two exchanged addresses.
“He wrote to me for six years after that game, and I always answered his letters,” Fee said. “I still have the photograph to this day.”
This was a characteristic common of Fee, citing his experiences with others above his own. A humble man, Fee returned to Chelsea post graduation and had a three year layoff from his football career. Then, in 1960, the Boston Patriots came knocking.
“I considered it an honor, for them to draft me after being laid off for three years, and not playing. They were impressed enough with my collegiate career to give me a chance.”
Though he was the last member to be cut from the Patriots squad, Fee didn’t let that deter him.
He returned to Chelsea High, where he spent the next ten years as the head track and football coach, giving back to the school that had laid his foundation so many years ago.
His greatest memory came in 1980, when the Red Devils overcame a 20-0 deficit to beat the Crimson Tide of local Everett High. His nephew, wide receiver Paul Driscoll, lead the comeback with three touchdowns after Fee exploited a coverage matchup between Driscoll and his man.
It was the greatest come from behind win in Chelsea High football history, yet hardly anyone was there to witness it. According to Fee, the stands were nearly empty by the start of the third quarter.
“Everett had a good football program; they beat Chelsea all the time,” Fee said. “It was an honor to beat them, and everybody was very disappointed they didn’t stay.”
Fee is one of the original member of the Chelsea High School Hall of Fame.
At age 79, he has run over 31 marathons, and qualified three times for the Senior World Olympics in Eugene, Oregon. He spends every day with his wife, a Chelsea High sweetheart, who has fallen ill over the last several years.
Nowadays, the value of information seems contingent upon its accessibility, yet Fee’s story reminds us of the fulfillment that comes from digging for buried treasure. Thanks to the reopening of Chelsea High School’s Hall of Fame, perhaps students will be more inspired to discover the gems of their school’s decorated past.