More than a trainer: Weber was the Hogs’ chief caregiver

Dean Weber (Courtesy/Razorback Foundation)

The news of Dean Weber’s passing Tuesday at age 78 wasn’t a surprise. I knew he was ill and had been struggling, but, I guess, it’ll always be a bit of a shock when we learn of someone’s death, particularly a person as full of life as Weber was.

Weber, who worked as the Hogs’ head athletics trainer for 35 years before transitioning to other roles with the UA and later the Razorback Foundation, is a legendary figure in Razorback lore.

He served the Razorbacks in some form and fashion since 1973, and among the players he worked with on a daily basis through 2008, there’s probably not a more beloved and respected figure.

Former Razorback baseball coach Norm DeBriyn is probably his only equal in that regard.

That’s no disrespect to the memory of Frank Broyles or any other long-tenured employee of the Razorback athletics department.

Some people just know how to connect with others, and Dean certainly knew how.

Dean had a great and kind heart, but he was tough, too. He was no pushover. Trainers can’t be. The health and welfare of the players they serve and work with are too important.

Ask anyone that got to be around Dean much, and they will regale you with stories. Many of them are unprintable. Political correctness had not been invented during most of his tenure in Arkansas’ training room.

Dean teased and prodded, and no doubt he would use tough love, but love was the key word. Players and coaches trusted him implicitly, and media members respected him and his training room. If they didn’t, they would learn to pretty quickly.

I have heard Dean Weber stories since I was a little kid. My brother, Chuck, who is 11 years older than me, worked for Dean as a student trainer from 1974-1977. Dean became a legendary figure in my little mind from hearing all my brother’s stories when he would return home from college.

He still tells those stories today when we get together on ballgame weekends, and I love to hear them.

Here’s one that’s print friendly.

Coach Broyles and Alabama coach Bear Bryant often traded ideas since their teams seldom played each other back when Arkansas was still a member of the Southwest Conference. When Bear would get a new piece of equipment, Broyles was soon to follow, and I assume vice-versa.

So when Bear got a tower on the practice field so he could overlook the entirety of practice, Broyles quickly bought one, too.

Broyles had a chair on the platform of his tower, and occasionally, he would doze off. Dean would always keep watch, and if he noticed that Broyles had nodded off, he would send one of the trainers over to slightly shake the tower to awaken the Head Hog.

That tower was still around when I began covering the Razorbacks in 1989 for the campus newspaper. If I remember correctly, Danny Ford, who played for Bryant at Alabama, used it on occasions. Someone might have had to shake the tower for him, too?

But, Dean always looked after the best interest of the Razorback players he served and the coaches he worked for.

He also was an innovator. Dean led the research on finding a remedy for “turf toe,” a common and painful injury suffered commonly by running backs when their big toe joint is bent upward. Dean began placing an extra piece of padding in the shoe to help.

Beyond all that he did as a trainer, Dean took an active role in the lives of players and other colleagues in any number of ways that are too personal to be shared in a sports column.

Dean was an active caregiver to so many people over the years, and that’s why he was always the most popular figure in the Broyles Center.

A Celebration of Life is scheduled for April 13 at 4 p.m. at Bud Walton Arena. The celebration will be held during the A Club Spring Reunion Weekend, an event Dean dearly loved.

Cremation arrangements by Beard’s Funeral Chapel. Condolences at beardsfuneralchapel.com.

The family requests memorials be made to the Dean Weber Endowed Athletic Training Scholarship Fund within the UA College of Education and Health Professions. For more information contact Tory Gaddy ([email protected]).