ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Like I have done so many times in my life, I’ll be driving to Mizzou this Saturday for a football gameday.
This time, however, I’ll be traveling with a heavy heart.
John Kadlec, the greatest ambassador the University of Missouri could have ever hoped for, passed away Wednesday morning at the age of 86. A funeral mass will be held at 10:30 AM Saturday in Columbia.
1. John Kadlec Was Mizzou: “Mr. Mizzou,” as he was known around the state, lived and breathed Missouri football. And when I was growing up, he was Mizzou to me.
“Coach Kadlec” — as my dad, Bill Ackerman, a dear friend, called him – did everything the school asked him to do:
- He was a grad assistant for Don Faurot following a stellar playing career as an offensive guard. As an assistant coach for Dan Devine and Al Onofrio, Kadlec became the Tigers’ No. 1 recruiter in his hometown of St. Louis.
- Through years of experience in administration and development, there was no better fundraiser than Kadlec. Mr. Mizzou traveled every inch of the state to extend a hand to the Tiger faithful. He could light up a room like no one else, always remembering your name…and the names of your family members.
- He became the team’s radio analyst almost by accident, asked by then-athletic director Joe Castiglione to do it for one game before taking it and running with it – like he did with everything else – for 16 seasons.
2. Learning From Coach Kadlec: I can remember tailgating with my family at a very young age and seeing Coach Kadlec walk up to our group before the game, chatting with us and beaming as if that was going to be the greatest afternoon in Missouri history. We’d see him at alumni functions, Christmas parties, Braggin’ Rights Games and preseason Quarterback Club meetings.
I learned a lot of football from Coach Kadlec, but mostly I was drawn to his jovial nature and positive outlook. To him, every day representing his university – and spending time with his wife, Dolly — was a blessing.
Yes, Kadlec took the losses hard. But brother, did he ever love the victories. That’s why I’m so grateful that he was able to see the resurgence of the Gary Pinkel-led Tigers over this past decade.
3. Coach Pinkel On Coach Kadlec: I spoke to Pinkel on Wednesday morning. He told me he had a chance to see Kadlec a day earlier.
“That was important for me,” Pinkel said. “It was an honor to be part of his life.”
Pinkel could relate to Kadlec. As coaches, they spoke the language of football and discussed an array of topics, although Pinkel joked he wouldn’t let Kadlec, a former offensive lineman, discuss the quarterback position with him.
4. Comfort In A Time Of Loss: In 1993, when my father died of a heart attack at the age of 54, I was a few weeks away from turning 18. One of the first people to comfort me during that time was Coach Kadlec, who constantly told me how much my dad spoke highly of me. A decade later, when I began filling in as the play-by-play announcer for Mizzou basketball games on radio, Kadlec was one of the first to congratulate me.
With a nod, Kadlec softly passed along a reassuring message: “He’d be proud of you.”
5. Memories From Colleagues: Mike Kelly, the Voice of the Tigers, said Kadlec “always greeted you with a smile.”
Kadlec’s longtime office mate, Gary Link, called it the “twinkle in his eye.”
Whatever it was, Coach Kadlec had “it,” and I miss him already. I’ll drive to Columbia and attend his funeral mass on Saturday. Afterwards, his black-and-gold-clad family and friends will spill out of Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church and start making their way to Faurot Field. There’s a game to be played, at 3:00 against Kentucky.
It’s just the way Coach Kadlec would want it.