Poly's pride, joy Waibel: Retiring after 31 years, the man who 'is Poly football' leaves a legacy of city titles and NFL players. But his lessons about life off the field are the coaching his players best remember.

November 11, 1997|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

There is nothing stylish about Augie Waibel football. No big coaching staff. No untucked shirts. Very little passing.

Well, there is his hip sideline attire. In the winter, Waibel, Poly's 64-year-old coach, might wear a wool knit cap, cutoff shorts over sweat pants and a plaid shirt thrown over a hooded jacket. "Augie wore grunge before the grunge look was popular," said his wife of 41 years, Betty Waibel.

What Waibel's teams wear is the look of a winner, and, as he heads into his final postseason tournament this weekend before retiring, the man himself remains popular with current and former players from his 31 years as Poly's coach.

"He's one of those rare individuals I feel comfortable around as a coach and a friend," said Poly graduate Antonio Freeman, a wide receiver for the defending Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers.

"He's a father figure," Poly senior Jason Simms said. "I can tell him anything, call him, day or night."

Waibel's son, Bill, says his success has more to do with his ability to reach youth than his obvious knowledge of the game.

"Dad's not above jumping in someone's face -- he's done that before -- but he's never above working around kids' problems of today," said Bill Waibel, 34, a coach at Joppatowne High. "He tries to bring out the best qualities of the worst players, and I've seen him stick with kids who've had all sorts of problems."

Freeman, a graduate of Virginia Tech, partially attributes his comfortable lifestyle to lessons learned from Waibel. "Still, today, after a tough game, or after a great game, Coach Waibel will call me: 'What was that end-zone dance?' or 'That was a great catch,' " said Freeman, 25. "His jokes are still the same, and he relates the same to everyone."

Freeman said Waibel was "a stickler and disciplinarian" during his freshman year at Poly.

"I was playing intramural sports, just doing the minimum to get by academically," Freeman said. "He took me aside and said, 'Son, you're a great athlete. I'd like you to play on my team. But you've got to behave yourself. You can't continue to be the class clown and a distraction to classmates.'

"He wants you to grow beyond football, beyond the Division I scholarship, and even beyond a professional football career."

Kaline's pal at Southern

Waibel wasn't unlike many of today's student-athletes as a football and lacrosse player at Southern High in the early 1950s, said his wife, then a Notre Dame of Maryland senior by the name of Betty Tilghman. The Pigtown native enjoyed looking the part of a BMOC, often tooling around with former classmate and future baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline in Kaline's 1950 Ford.

As a center-linebacker, Waibel helped Maryland's Terps win a national football title in 1953 before graduating in 1956. And as a lacrosse defenseman, Waibel helped the Terps' national championship teams of 1955 and 1956.

But while "hanging out" one day as a high school senior on what amounted to a jocks' corner at Southern, Waibel showed his wife a side that has touched her more so than any of his athletic accomplishments.

"I accidentally dropped my glove, and he ran up and asked, 'Is this yours?' I thought that was sweet," Betty Waibel said. "He's like that with everyone, no matter who you are. He was as stern with our [three] children as with his players, but the kids respected that."

"Of course, Dad's also a great coach," Bill Waibel said. "He's never gone into a game he didn't think he could win."

A Maryland State Football Hall of Fame inductee in April, Waibel's 279-74 career record over 35 seasons at Edmondson and Poly ranks second in the state behind Gaithersburg's John Harvill (299 wins).

Straightforward teacher

Loyola coach Joe Brune, 64, who ranks fifth among the state's 10 winningest coaches with 191 career victories, said "one of my last games as a player was when I was a senior at Loyola and Augie was a senior at Southern.

"Even then, he was the same -- he wanted to run it right down your throat," said Brune, a former offensive tackle. "But the thing I respect most about him, and what I hope people will ultimately appreciate Augie for is the things he did for and the things that he taught the kids that he coached."

Of the man whose player-conduct policy includes having shirts tucked in, socks pulled up and "looking the part of a football player at all times," Simms, a member of this year's No. 12 Engineers (7-3), said: "He's not just a coach, but he's a legend. He is Poly football."

Waibel's lessons also helped former players such as defensive lineman Greg Schaum, who went from Michigan State to play for three NFL teams from 1976 to 1978; defensive end Mike Pitts, who was the No. 1 draft choice of the Atlanta Falcons out of Alabama, and played with the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles before retiring last season; and Charlie Pittman, who starred at Penn State, where he broke several of Lenny Moore's records, and was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals and later played for the Baltimore Colts.

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