Big 12 Sports.com Correspondent
Missouri has had legendary coaches like Don Faurot and Dan Devine, legendary players like Johnny Roland, Roger Wehrli, Kellen Winslow and Chase Daniel.
But the man known as Mr. Mizzou is a legend known mostly by those whose color scheme is black and gold and prefer Tiger stripes.
John Kadlec has been a fixture on the Missouri campus for nearly half a century. Other than two brief relocations to Kansas State, Kadlec has called Columbia his home. That loyalty and service has led him to be named to the Big 12 Conference's first class of Legends.
"I guess if you're around long enough, something like this happens, you become a legend," Kadlec said with a chuckle that befits his Santa-like build. "This is a big honor."
Kadlec was a reluctant recruit. He showed up in Columbia in the summer of 1947 having never visited the campus. After coach Don Faurot visited the Kadlec household, young John told his parents he didn't want to go to college. His parents persisted.
"That's when you find out your parents are smart," Kadlec said. "If it wasn't for coach Faurot, I wouldn't be sitting here. My folks were middle class folks, heck, they didn't know what college was. I've had a lot of breaks in my life."
Kadlec went on to become an all-conference offensive lineman although that sort of success seemed impossible when he suited up for his first practice.
"I was really intimidated when I got here," he said. "I walked on the field for the first practice, there were 120 guys out there. I wondered, 'What am I doing here?' The freshman coach was John "Hi" Simmons (a legend himself as the Missouri baseball coach) who was very encouraging to me. He told me all the other freshmen felt the same way I did."
After his playing career, Kadlec married his wife Dolly. He planned to take a job with a meat company in Kansas City but then Faurot called with an offer to be the offensive line coach for the freshmen team.
Three months of happiness followed ... until Kadlec was asked what he planned to do after the season.
"It was a three-month job. I couldn't believe it," Kadlec said. "I told coach Faurot that I loved coaching. He asked if I wanted to stay on. I moved up to varsity. And coaching has been my life."
Kadlec, who served as an offensive line coach under Faurot, Frank Broyles, Dan Devine and Al Onofrio, ended his coaching career in 1977 when Onofrio and his staff was dismissed.
The only interruptions to his Missouri time came when he moved west. He was at Kansas State as an assistant coach from 1960-66 and again from 1980-86 as an athletic department fund raiser. His second tour of duty in Manhattan came at the invitation of DeLoss Dodds, the current Texas athletic director who at the time was the head honcho at Kansas State.
Kadlec returned to Missouri in 1986 to work in the athletic department. He currently is a special assistant to athletic director Mike Alden and serves as the analyst on Missouri's radio network.
His career in the broadcast booth exemplifies Kadlec's willingness to do what's needed.
Before the 1995 season, Missouri planned on former tight end Kellen Winslow serving as its radio analyst. The week of the season opener, Winslow had to cancel. Athletic director Joe Castiglione (who now is the Oklahoma athletic director), needed a replacement.
"He asked me to do the color and I said, 'What's that?'" Kadlec recalled. "He said on the radio and I said, 'No, not me.'"
His boss "persisted." What was supposed to be a one-game experience has become a full-time, part-time job.
"The next week, Joe comes into my office and tells me I'm home free," Kadlec said. "I say, great, who's the guy? He says, 'You.'"
Missouri play-by-play man Mike Kelly calls Kadlec a "soldier" because of his willingness to fill in and stay on.
"It's been a joy working with him," Kelly said. "Our friendship is even better than it was. He adds things to the broadcast with his historical knowledge, he understands the game. He likes the spread offense but I think he'd like to see a fullback.
"You look at the legacy he has at Missouri, he transcends so many eras. For the past 50-plus years, he's worked with and touched so many people. He's Mr. Mizzou."