But that's how current Cal senior offensive guard Aaron Merz came face-to-face with the legend. Tom Holmoe, Cal's head coach at the time in 2001, sent Merz to clean the statue as he had done with many of his freshmen.
Holmoe might not have had much success in wins and losses, but he valued Cal's history and realized that his players probably wouldn't embrace it without a little urging. Merz admits that he didn't know anything about a man who is a member of the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame.
But there he kneeled on the Faculty Glade on campus, as large as life.
"The students had put a joint in his hand," Merz said. "I had come down to clean him off.
"I really didn't know much about him. I learned he was probably the greatest coach in Cal history. And I heard about his players and how they still get together."
Indeed, Pappy was a mountain of a man at a time when the nation was healing from World War II. He took over at Cal in 1947 and didn't leave until he finished the 1956 season. During that time, he went 67-32-4 with three consecutive trips to the Rose Bowl in 1948, 1949 and 1950.
He took seasoned war veterans, many who were married, and turned them into a well-oiled machine. He transformed a program that hadn't experienced a winning season in eight years into a national power.
Hmmmm, no winning record for eight seasons? Transformed the program into a winner?
Current Cal coach Jeff Tedford took over a program that hadn't finished with a winning record in eight seasons and since has posted four consecutive winning seasons. Cal attended its third consecutive bowl, the first time for such a feat since Pappy walked the sidelines.
Two men, two different approaches, one common theme. Winning.
It took Tedford, who arrived at Cal 46 seasons and 10 coaches after Waldorf's final year, to breathe life back into the Pappy legend. Every time that Tedford turns a corner, he bumps into a more triumphant time in Cal's history.
Last time for four or more consecutive winning seasons, under Pappy.
Last time Cal went ranked so many consecutive weeks, under Pappy.
Last time Cal won eight or more consecutive conference games, under Pappy.
Last time Cal ranked as high as No. 3, under Pappy.
"I've heard lots of stories about him from Pappy's Boys (the group founded in 1986 to honor his achievements)," said Tedford, whose around-the-clock work ethic has left him little time to study Cal's football history.
"I've heard that all of his players had great respect for him. And you get the feeling that he really cared a lot about them.
"I know you're only willing to care about your players if you have faith in them."
Faith is the word that perhaps connects Tedford to Waldorf more than any other. Former Cal player Dick Erickson (1946-48) described Waldorf as a chairman of the board type who delegated much of the hands-on coaching duties to his assistants. Tedford is a guy who gets down in the trenches every day.
Waldorf was quiet and calm on the sidelines. "He was very reserved,"
Erickson said. "I never saw Pappy get upset where there was a display of outward emotion."
Tedford has been known to pump his fists, wave his arms and object, just a bit, to officials when calls get sticky.
Waldorf was plump with wavy gray hair. Tedford more athletic looking, and hair ... well ... let's not go there.
But while the two might have been different in many ways, they share that faith in their players and vice versa. "I think Jeff Tedford has that wonderful quality," said former Cal quarterback Paul Larson, who played for Waldorf from 1952 to 1954.
"I've been in a number of small get-togethers with him, been around him, and I know he develops a lot of devotion with his players. That was the same with Pappy.
"I remember a game at Washington (1954) in which I had sprained my ankle the night before. Pappy really chewed on his cigar the morning of the game. It was the only game, since I took over at quarterback that I didn't play defense. Anyway, I had four or five plays sent in to me that game and I never used them."
Fans who are used to the current state of college football should know that it was a different era in which the quarterback called the plays and got little assistance from the sideline. As Larson related, there was even a time when coaches weren't allowed to coach the players on the field during the game. Larson was used to handling the show himself.
"The story was related to me later that our offensive assistant had been sending in the plays and he kept calling down to Pappy to find out why I wasn't using them. Pappy finally just left the phone off the hook and sat back and watched the game. He had faith in everything I was calling."
As much as Waldorf had faith in his players, the players had the same faith in him.
"When I went to Berkeley, I was fourth string," Larson said. "Pappy was the kind of guy who made you wait your turn. So I did a lot of things, kickoff returns, punt returns, defensive back, and all that stuff. I had to play defense because I couldn't make the offense.
Then one season I was scheduled to play first-string left half. Pappy called me in and asked, 'Paul, I am going to ask you a question. The decision will be up to you.' I didn't know what he was going to ask me. But he asked if I wanted to change positions. He wanted me to play quarterback."
It was that kind of exchange that endeared Waldorf to his players.
"You wouldn't have broken a training rule because you didn't want to disappoint him," Larson said. "When a guy has that kind of hold, you can play for him hard."
Modesto's Milt David was a student during Pappy's run and he enjoyed being part of Cal's football resurgence as a national power. He said that Pappy had a hold on the students as well.
"The students loved Pappy," David said. "We loved him because we loved winning and he always recruited great players. He was well respected.
"In those days, we had a men's rooting section and the women sat off to our left in their own rooting section. We would watch Pappy, who was not very demonstrative at all. He was very reserved and very professional. He ran things like the director of a play."
But he was a director with a sense of humor.
"We were playing Washington in 1951 and they had Hugh McElhenny and Don Heinrich at the time," said Bob Karpe, who played in 1950 and 1951.
"They were favored to win, but we had won quite a few games in a row ourselves. It was the big game on the coast and with about four minutes to go, our defensive team was in. We had Washington on its own 30 and Pappy got the offensive team together and he was telling us how to run out the clock.
"Just as he stuck a fresh cigar in his mouth, McElhenny broke for 30 yards. Pappy looked at us. 'Son of a bitch,' he said. We had never heard him swear. Then he said, 'Does anybody have a match?'
"We just cracked up. Our defense held and when we got into the game, we couldn't have made a mistake if we tried."
Cal won 37-28.
The stories could go on forever and Karpe realized that fact, sending a letter to Erickson. "He sent me a letter with $10,000 in it and said 'you get after it,' in terms of starting Pappy's Boys. We have 493 people on our mailing list right now. Players, widows of players, associate members.
"Everyone loved him. He was just that kind of guy."
The son of a Methodist minister, Bishop Ernest Waldorf, Lynn Waldorf was born in 1902 in Clifton Springs, N.Y. He was an All-American tackle at Syracuse before starting his coaching career at Oklahoma City University. He later took over at Oklahoma State, then known as Oklahoma A&M before becoming the head coach at Northwestern in 1936.
It was at Northwestern that he coached the legendary Otto Graham.
Waldorf went 49-45-7 at Northwestern and 34-10-7 at Oklahoma State.
Although he won conference titles at both stops, he became famous for his work at Cal.
Among the details that his players probably didn't know about him during his run at Northwestern, Waldorf was a Civil War expert who contributed to Carl Sandburg's biography of Abraham Lincoln.
When Waldorf, who often wore a suit, tie and a baseball cap, finished his run at Cal, he joined the San Francisco 49ers to head their scouting department and eventually was their personnel director. He was with the 49ers from 1957 through 1972.
He was elected to the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1966 and he died in Berkeley in 1981.
"I met Pappy when I was a junior in high school," Larson said. "I fell in love with the man. He was a wonderful guy and every high school player in our state wanted to come to Cal. It's like it is now at USC.
"Whenever he came into the room, he was the focal point. He didn't have to make a show. He was a gentle man who you respected. He didn't raise his voice too much.
"My freshman year, I fumbled a kickoff. He never said a word to me. He just rolled his cigar from one side of his mouth to the other. I thought he was going to jump all over me."
Karpe said the formation of Pappy's Boys was a fitting tribute to the man with a booming voice and a strict code of ethics. "He was a coach worthy of that kind of dedication," Karpe said. "Any time we were in a tight spot, he would get us out of it. You could just walk into his office and tell him your problems. He would listen.
"You just wanted to do your best for him."
And he always did his best for the players. Karpe said there were no emotional outbursts in the locker room. "He could tell us to do a whole lot with just a few words," Karpe said.
Pappy's Boys continue to meet and they say lots of words in telling Pappy's story. The group is responsible for the statue that Merz was assigned to clean.
The group also put together a book, Pappy's Boys ... The Rose Bowl Years ... A Legacy of Winning, that is now available at The Bear Insider website. Just a few hundred copies of this classic remain in print. Look for a "Pappy's Boys" link on the front page of the website.
Fans can get a look at Waldorf by visiting Cal's Hall Of Fame room in Memorial Stadium or by visiting the statue at Faculty Glade on campus.
And don't worry, the statue is clean.
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