It hasn’t been much to look at over the past 20 years or so, but in the early 1980s, this little store on the west corner of Laurel Plaza was something special. Bob Windsor’s All-Pro Sports was ahead of its time.
Bob Windsor was an NFL tight end, and by most accounts, a pretty good one at that. He was the second-round draft choice for the San Francisco 49ers in 1966. In his five years there, he made the All Rookie Team and was an All Pro selection. Traded to the New England Patriots for a number one draft choice in 1971, he played another five years before retiring in 1976. It was that year that he returned to his native Washington, DC area and opened his immensely popular store in Laurel.
Growing up at Steward Manor Apartments just across Routes 198 and 197, I was fortunate to live within walking distance. And I took advantage of it, visiting early and often during those summer months. The store had everything a sports fan could want: jerseys, pennants, stickers, hats, jackets, lamps, trashcans—all licensed merchandise for seemingly every team in every pro sport. And this was on top of Bob’s outstanding selection of sneakers and other brand name sports apparel and equipment. He actually carried a better selection in this modest corner shop than many of today’s mammoth retailers, and he did it in an era when most of these items were only available through mail order catalogs.
Bob also cornered the market on local youth sports, silkscreening uniforms for Laurel High’s teams as well as those of the Laurel Boys & Girls Club and Maryland City Mustangs. (To this day, I still have my very first Mustangs jersey from 1980, and my Eisenhower Middle School gym t-shirt from 1984—both of which would now barely fit my dogs).
But as a kid growing up in Laurel, the best part really was Bob Windsor himself. At 6’4, he was already larger than life; tack on his genuine personality and good nature, and he was a legitimate role model—and something of a local celebrity to us all. In fact, for many kids from our neighborhood, the autographed 8 x 10 glossies that Bob happily gave out upon request were the first autographs we ever received. And, I’d be willing to bet I’m not the only one who still has mine. 🙂
Postscript: I’ve also tracked down some of Bob Windsor’s early team photos with the ‘Niners—a team that included a young Steve Spurrier at quarterback. Bob is #89, Spurrier is #11.