Sunday, December 10, 2006


Nobody ever wanted Mike Pawlawski. Poor mechanics, limited arm strength, no reputation coming out of high school - not your Pac-10 prototype. No one knew what we were getting when he took over the reins of the Cal offense from Troy Taylor in 1990. What we got was a winner who molded the team in his image - talking tough and hitting through the whistle, willing to sacrifice style points for the all-important win. Pawlawski turned out to be the Anglo Joe Kapp; running, throwing and hitting opponents whenever he got the chance.

He was also a pretty fair quarterback. In that junior season of 1990 Pawlawski completed 194 of 325 passes for 2,241 yards and 18 TDs. More importantly, he led Cal to its first Bowl victory in 52 years, a 17-15 win over Wyoming in the Copper Bowl. In his senior season, Pawlawski almost took Cal all the way to the top. He was voted co-offensive POY in the Pac-10 in 1991 after completing 60.4 % of his passes for 2,517 yards and 21 touchdowns for the 10-2 Golden Bears. In that year's 37-13 Citrus Bowl victory over Clemson, he hit on 21 of 32 passes for 230 yards.

But the numbers didn't measure Pawlawski. His true contribution to Golden Bear football was leadership - the one-star quarterback who willed his more decorated teammates to higher and higher levels of performance. Occasionally those Bears teams would talk too much trash, and earn too many penalties. But just like their leader, they never backed down from a fight and they won - 17 times in 24 tries during Pawlawski's career as a starter.

Pawlawski later played one NFL season with Tampa Bay before starring for the Albany Firebirds in the Arena Football League for several years. He was inducted into the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002.


At 6:12 AM, Blogger Pete Morris said...

After retiring from football, Pawlawski became a pretty decent broadcaster. I, for one, was disappointed when he was replaced by Troy Taylor as Starkey's sidekick on the Bears' radio feed. (That said, I still wish Lee Grosscup was up in the booth with Joe.)

I've long thought, though, that Pawlawski would make a good coach--a bright, articulate guy who also has that rare competitive fire and confidence. Does he have any interest in coaching? Pete Carroll has enjoyed a fair bit of success (and criticism, too) for loading his staff with young assistants, even handing the offense over to them. Do you think Tedford would ever bring Pawlawski similarly into the fold? And would that even be a good idea?

One last question: Which was the better team? 1991 or 2004? Snyder vs. Tedford? Pawlawski vs. Rodgers? White vs. Arrington/Lynch? That would be a fun matchup to watch, indeed.

At 10:55 AM, Blogger T. said...

I got to Cal in 1992, so I never really got to see Pawlawski play live, but almost everyone I knew that was older than me did.

One thing struck me - everyone said he should be brought as a Cal coach . . .to coach our linebackers.

That says more than anything to me about his toughness.

At 11:34 AM, Anonymous SoCal Oski said...

Mike started after I graduated, but he definitely showed more fire, toughness, and will to win than the QBs while I was a student (cough Gale Gilbert cough).

And, while I can't fault the swagger and attitude of Pawlawski and the Snyder Bears, they did cross the line of being stupidly aggressive. Too many bad penalties and losing their heads at the wrong time. It spoke more of Snyder than the players, though.

Go Bears!

PS: I'm totally digging this trip down memory lane.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger My said...

You know it, we'll tell the story, we'll tell the whole damned world this is Bear Territory!

Wasn't that chant a Pawlawski-era invention? And wasn't Mike involved somehow?

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Tightwad said...

my, I'm pretty sure the Bear Territory cheer was around prior to Pawlawski. Anyone know the answer?

At 1:35 PM, Blogger T. said...

Pawlawski (and Mic Man Ken Montgomery) can take credit for the:

"Is that the only song you know?
It's boring and it's slow
We really wish you'd go . . ."

At 1:57 PM, Anonymous SoCal Oski said...

Bear Territory was a Kapp-era thing.

I don't remember the exact game it came up, but I remember the Mic Man trying to explain it to the crowd.

The thing is, while he was exlpaining the cheer it sounded lame. Once we did it, it was cool.

You tell the whole damn world ...

At 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pawlawski also starred for the San Francisco Demons of the XFL, leading them all the way to the league's first (and only) championship game (called The Big Game At The End).

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Jeffrey said...

My favorite thing about Pawlawski was the way he laid out defensive players on blocks. Tough and fearless.

The "Bear Territory" thing is older than Pawlawski, how old I don't know, but it was there before he played.

The USC "Is that the only song you know" chant was started in 1991 when we blew out USC 52-30. By halftime the crowd added a couple more lines to the chant that Mic-Man wasn't too happy about, namely, "Your mother is a ho. She's giving me a blow"

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