Bob Schloredt ate approximately 29,062 dinners during his nearly 80 years on Earth.
Some mattered more than others.
And not just to Schloredt.
That’s what 68-year-old Mukilteo resident Greg Stewart wrote The Times to say. Back in the winter of 1960, Stewart was a 10-year-old University of Washington football fan living in Shoreline with his family.
Schloredt — who died Thursday at age 79 — was the Huskies’ star quarterback, a six-foot senior who had led Washington to a decisive 44-8 drubbing of Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl the year before.
Stewart had not been in Pasadena, Calif., to see it, but he didn’t miss much else. His father was a physician in Seattle who often taught at the University of Washington, and he made a habit out of bringing his kids on fall Saturdays to watch the Huskies play. When Stewart couldn’t attend the game, he listened to it on the radio or watched on the family’s state-of-the-art black-and-white TV.
Stewart loved the Huskies — and in Seattle, at least, he wasn’t the only one.
“The Huskies were the only show in town,” Stewart said in a phone interview with The Times on Friday. “The Huskies were like the Seahawks. All the little boys at school were talking about the Huskies.”
One of those little boys at school found a phone number for the UW shell house, where Schloredt supposedly lived. With the unconquerable confidence that only a 10-year-old can have, Stewart received his mother’s blessing, and then he phoned his favorite player.
“I’d like to talk to Bob Schloredt, please,” Stewart recited, repeating the same words nearly 60 years later.
And just like that, in short order Schloredt was on the phone.
“I’d like to invite you to our house for dinner,” Stewart told him. “It’s OK with my mother.”
On Sunday, Dec. 4, 1960 — Greg still remembers the date — the reigning Rose Bowl MVP and his girlfriend rolled up to Stewart’s house in a red convertible.
“My dad barbecued steaks,” Stewart said. “I remember Bob ate two steaks. I thought, ‘Wow, what a big guy!’”
He may have been a big deal, but Schloredt didn’t show it. For hours, he sat at the kitchen table with the Stewarts — talking football with Greg, his parents and his five siblings. He signed autographs. He told stories. He sat there, smiling in a white shirt with red checkered stripes, while the Stewart boys showed off their all-too-familiar football jerseys.
“Of course everybody had No. 15,” Stewart said, referring to Schloredt’s number. “For all the kids at school, 15 was the number to be.”
After the sun went down in Shoreline, Stewart’s father flipped on the flood lights and the boys played football in the backyard — with Schloredt serving as the referee.
When Schloredt finally went home, Stewart had a story to share.
But, for the most part, he waited 60 years to share it.
“I really wasn’t a bragger,” Stewart said. “I’m sure I told some kids and they thought, ‘Oh, that’s awesome.’ But I looked at it, and really still do, as a private moment that I had with someone that I felt greatness in.”
Stewart’s feeling was justified. Less than a month later, Schloredt returned from a broken collarbone to earn his second consecutive Rose Bowl MVP honor, throwing and running for a touchdown apiece in a 17-7 upset of No. 1 Minnesota. The dual-threat quarterback — who was legally blind in his left eye — was the first player nationally to win a pair of Rose Bowl MVP trophies. He would later be inducted into the University of Washington, College Football and Rose Bowl Halls of Fame.
Stewart, meanwhile, followed his father into the medical field, settling in the Seattle area as a registered nurse and physician’s assistant.
That’s where, in 2008, he ran into an old friend.
“I worked in surgery and I saw the name Bob Schloredt (on the schedule),” Stewart said. “I went and talked with him, and he remembered that day.
“I told him, ‘Bob, you’ve always been my hero. And you know what? You still are.’ He laughed and just kind of beamed. I haven’t talked to him since.”
On Friday, Stewart — who volunteers as an assistant football coach at Archbishop Murphy High School, where his grandson plays — returned home from running errands, when his wife broke the news about Schloredt.
“My heart kind of skipped a beat,” he said.
That’s when he knew he needed to tell a nearly 60-year-old story. He needed to talk about one of almost 30,000 dinners Schloredt ate in his illustrious life — about the phone call, the convertible and the servings of barbecued steaks. He felt compelled to explain why this Husky legend was — and is — his hero.
So here’s to Bob Schloredt — a backyard referee and a Rose Bowl MVP.
“Taking time for a little boy who just calls and coming out to his house for dinner, I don’t think you hear many stories like that,” Stewart said. “It’s one of those memories that sticks with you the rest of your life.”