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the raider and the rodeo queen


Barry and Shae Sims have quite a bit in common, despite their obvious differences.

The Oakland Raiders lineman stands 6-feet-5-inches tall and weighs 300 pounds. In his San Ramon home, Barry is relaxing on an enormous couch next to his petite wife and his golden retriever, Riley, and he looks even bigger.

“Barry has spent his entire life being too big for chairs at the dinner table and seats on planes,” says Shae, who is just a hair over 5 feet tall. “Here, he’s finally able to have a place he feels comfortable.”

Growing up in Colorado, Sims was always the biggest kid in his class—and wasn’t allowed to play football until high school. “My mom was worried that I would hurt the other boys,” says the 31-year-old sheepishly.

The couple met in 1997, during their senior year at the University of Utah. Barry was the shy football star, Shae a former rodeo queen (she spent her teens riding horses and smiling on the Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana rodeo circuits). Their first encounter was in a popular sports bar. Shae approached Barry, who was hunkered down over the restaurant’s signature one-pound burger, and asked, “How’s your meat?” They’ve been together ever since.

In his final college game, an all-star contest in Hawaii, Barry blew out both his knee and his chance of being drafted any time soon by an NFL team. He moved to Castro Valley to rehab his knee with a physical therapy specialist—Barry’s first East Bay residence was a cot in a friend’s basement. “I slept right under the stairwell, and every morning I would wake up to the sound of kids running up and down,” he recalls. “I was just like Harry Potter.”

When he recovered, Barry and Shae moved to Europe so Barry could play in the NFL’s Europe League. They hoped an NFL team in the United States would notice him. After a season in Scotland, he received tryout invitations from nine teams, signed with the Raiders, and has been playing with Oakland ever since. Barry recently started preseason practices for his eighth year with the Raiders, an impressive one-team tenure in today’s NFL.

Shae and Barry found a home next to the Bridges Golf Club and filled it with furniture fit for a giant. They’ve made a habit of entertaining family members of Raiders players from other parts of the country. “We know what it’s like to be far away from home,” Shae explains.

The couple has also become involved in local philanthropy, working with Special Olympics and the Foster a Dream organization. Shae was chairperson for the recent Special Olympics Monte Carlo Carnavale, and Barry makes celebrity appearances, including at this month’s Raiders golf tournament at the Course at Wente Vineyards, which also benefits Special Olympics.

“Public speaking is something I never thought I’d have to do,” says Barry. “But it’s been nice to be able to do it, especially when it can help such an obviously great cause.”

Barry Sims and other Oakland Raiders will play in the Oakland Raiders Golf Classic on June 5 at the Course at Wente. For information, call (925) 944-0594, Ext. 225, or go to www.sonc.org.


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