Matador Til the End (Bobby Villanueva 1972-2011)

No matter the situation it’s always difficult discussing someone’s life after they pass away.

What makes this column much more difficult is the fact that Bobby Villanueva wasn’t just another person who passed away, he was also my brother.

Usually in sports most are recognized by a play or how they coached.

Bobby was a constant figure on the San Gabriel Matadors football sidelines longer than John Scanlan or Keith Jones roamed the sidelines.

Never wavering for his love of his alma mater Bobby never played a down for the Matadors but became a larger than life figure on the sideline that befriended all that came to talk to him.

In the last week the constant condolences have become a who’s who from the local sports landscape.

My brother and I grew up in this area. We played sports in the area.

While I disappeared to try my hand at horse racing, Bobby stayed around San Gabriel.

For the last 20 years, Bobby could be found at Friar Tux Shoppe in San Gabriel. Any player that needed a tuxedo from San Gabriel, Keppel, Gabrielino, Bosco Tech and Alhambra all went to the shop.

Every time without fail, he remembered the name and school the player came from.

His love other than his wife and two children (Hailey and Faith) was San Gabriel Football.

The highest of highs was the run to CIF Championship. The beaming from that unbelievable finish couldn’t be forgotten.

The lowest of lows came any time they lost.

Joe Torosian witnessed how intense Bobby became on the sidelines during an opening round loss in the Southeast Division game against West Covina.

“He was beet red,” Joe said the other day.

The day after I saw him at the UCLA game and asked why he was so mad. “No Comment! Hey look the Bruins are running on to the field.”

Then this anecdote over the weekend of what is one of the many stories that have come forward the past week.

During one game for San Gabriel, some of the players forgot mouth guards. The coaches didn’t have enough dry-erase boards.

Bobby told the team he would be back, before the game started new mouth guards and boards appeared.

In the last few years of his life, my brother continued his humanitarian efforts.

His oldest daughter Hailey diagnosed with Type I Diabetes gave him an opportunity to use his many established friendships to raise money for JDRF. He began to hold a JDRF poker tournament and turned his Yard of Terror into a way to donate for JDRF.

With the economy so bad, Bobby became a vocal member of the Washington Elementary School PTA. In the last five months he organized a Washington PTA poker tournament that helped raise money.

He put together the first annual Washington PTA Golf Tournament raising over $3,000 on March 19th.

As of next year the event will be called the Bobby Villanueva Memorial Golf Tournament.

Andy can be reached at

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