50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #12 - SAM CHAPMAN#12 - SAM CHAPMAN - HALFBACK (1935-1937)
First off, he's got the best nickname in Cal football history - The "Tiburon Terror." Chapman came to Cal from Tamalpais HS weighing only 140 pounds, and consequently didn't make much of an impact on the JV squad. Between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he worked as a welder on the Golden Gate Bridge (which would open two years later) and added about twenty pounds of muscle to his frame.
With this added bulk, he immediately became a star - running, passing, catching and kicking Stub Allison's Bears to win after win. Two of his most memorable efforts came against USC - as a sophomore his 45 yard touchdown catch and run put the Bears up for good in a 21-7 win, and as a junior he hauled in a 34 yard pass from Vic Bottari late in the game to beat the Trojans in Los Angeles 13-7.
Chapman was the primary running threat for the great 1937 Thunder Team that outscored its opponents 201-33 and stifled mighty Alabama in the Rose Bowl 13-0. In recommending him for All-America status, Time Magazine wrote that Chapman "is the best punter in the PCC, a good passer and runner, and a fearless ankle-tackler." Cal entered the Big Game that year needing a victory to secure the Rose Bowl berth, and Chapman almost personally secured it. While statistics are hard to come by, reports show that his running led Cal on both its scoring drives in the Bears' 13-0 win, and that he punted nine times for a 43 yard average - exceptionally high in that era. Given the field conditions in rain-soaked Stanford Stadium, Chapman's kicking presented an insurmountable challenge to the Indians. Following the season, he was named a first-team All-American by virtually every service, and at least one CFB blog out there thinks he should have won the Heisman (he finished ninth in the voting)
But here's the kicker with Sam Chapman - football wasn't his best sport. Following his senior season he traveled directly to Philadelphia to become the Athletics' starting center fielder. Over an 11-year career Chapman hit .266 with 180 home runs and 773 runs batted in - like many major leaguers he lost three seasons in his prime when he served as a Navy pilot in WWII.
Sam Chapman is a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, and he is still with us - living in Tiburon at the age of 90.