Waibel remembered as man of dedication

Players, coaches pay respects to Poly coach

January 12, 2001|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Augie Waibel was eulogized yesterday as a man who influenced many lives with his dedication, humility and honesty.

Hundreds of his coaching colleagues, former players and friends congregated at his funeral Mass at St. Ursula Catholic Church in Parkville to pay their final respects to the former Poly football coach, who died Saturday in northern Baltimore County after suffering a massive heart attack.

Green Bay Packers wide receiver Antonio Freeman, the most recent Waibel protege to play in the NFL, flew in from Florida for the 1 1/2 -hour service presided over by the Rev. Joe Bonadio, a close friend of the Waibel family.

"He's the reason I'm the professional athlete I am, because he gave me an opportunity," said Freeman, who played host to Waibel and his longtime assistant coach, Bucky Kimmett, during a Packers-Detroit Lions game in Green Bay a month ago.

"Like a lot of kids that age, I screwed around in the ninth and 10th grade before he saw me in gym class and in intramural football. `If you get it together, I think you can be a real athlete,' he told me. I did because he inspired me and energized me. He showed me how to win and be a man and how to make decisions on those things I needed to succeed."

Freeman said he was "so shocked. It was weird," when he first heard the news of Waibel's death. "I had just given them some Packers jerseys and they met Brett Favre."

Known for his ponderous, ground-oriented teams, Waibel adjusted when he had Freeman, who said, "We threw the ball often enough that I got noticed." He went to Virginia Tech.

Kimmett, Waibel's son Bill and Poly English teacher Janice Harper spoke at the funeral. Harper drew a round of applause for an original poem she composed in Waibel's honor titled "The Keeper of Dreams."

"A lot of people thought of him as a father. To me, he was the real thing," said Bill Waibel, one of the three children of Waibel and his wife of 44 years, Betty. "He was as humble as anyone I've ever known, and he had a lot of reasons not to be humble."

A football center and lacrosse player at the University of Maryland, Waibel coached four years at Edmondson and 31 at Poly before retiring in 1997. He also assisted the staff at Towson University for two years after that.

"He brought us stability and a dry humor," said Towson coach Gordy Combs. "Our kids really liked him. Sometimes, when you're 65 years old, you can't relate to people that age, but not Augie."

New Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen also attended. He recruited the Baltimore area while an assistant under Bobby Ross in the 1980s.

"He was a Maryland man who was a center on one of our better teams, and a lot of his [Poly] players came to Maryland," said Friedgen. "We were proud of his dedication and love for the game and the kids."

Jack Scarbath, Waibel's teammate at College Park in 1952, said: "He gave a lot of kids orientation for their futures. He was totally dedicated, and that compounded into his coaching style."

Waibel also coached three other players who advanced into the pros, Charlie Pittman, Mike Pitts and Greg Schaum.

Bonadio was a speaker when Waibel retired from Poly. He said Waibel "touched literally thousands of people. His life was too short, but very well lived. He probably died the way he wanted to, not putting anybody else to a whole lot of trouble."

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