While the MU Athletics Department transitions to the future as a member of the Southeastern Conference, it took time to reflect back on its history Friday night.
Six former student-athletes received the highest honor MU gives to a past player. Ben Askren, Don Chadwick, Tom Heckman, Max Scherzer, Russ Sloan and George Williams were enshrined into the MU Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame during a ceremony Friday at the Columbia Courtyard by Marriott.
The Hall of Fame selection process looks deeper than just on-the-field accomplishments, Deputy Chancellor Mike Middleton said.
“These individuals were chosen based on the athletic department's core values of academic integrity, social responsibility and competitive excellence,” he said.
The first inductee of the 2011 Hall of Fame class was Ben Askren. The former national champion wrestler dealt with feelings of doubt during his days in black and gold.
“Through the recruiting process, the thing I kept hearing from other coaches is you cannot win at Mizzou,” Askren said. “You tell us you want to be a national champion, you cannot win at Mizzou. It’s never been done before.”
Askren set a new standard by becoming a four-time All-American and winning the Dan Hodge Trophy for wrestling excellence in 2006 and 2007. He also won National Wrestling Coaches Association Academic All-American honors.
Don Chadwick came next after Askren during the ceremony. Chadwick was a two-way lineman for former football coaches Don Faurot, Frank Broyles and Dan Devine in the late 1950s. Chadwick played for different coaches at every level throughout this Hall-of-Fame career.
A firm respect for his teammates held those teams together through Missouri’s constant coaching changes. Chadwick won All-Big Eight honors as a senior captain. Faurot named him as part of his lifetime two-way all-Missouri team.
The night continued with starting pitcher Tom Heckman’s enshrinement. Heckman graduated in 1981 with the most innings pitched in school history. He won 10 games per season during his final three years on the team. He held the Missouri record for career wins with 36.
“Part of the reason I won as many games as I did is because of the defense we had,” Heckman said. "Why do they give wins to the pitcher? It’s a team win."
Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer was introduced next. Scherzer struck out 131 batters and held a 1.86 ERA for the MU Tigers in 2005, good for Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the Year honors. In 2006, he was drafted in the first round of the MLB Draft and is currently a part of the Detroit Tiger’s pitching staff.
Scherzer thanked his coaches and strength staff for motivation.
“They provided the biggest foundation in my life for hard work,” he said. "I honestly believe if it wasn’t for that staff, for that approach, for everybody involved in that baseball program and strength staff, I wouldn’t have developed into the player I am.”
Growing up as a Tiger fan, the pitcher explained many of his favorite memories in Columbia.
“I have to say thanks to Gary Pinkel for my time on the football field,” Scherzer said, referring to tearing down the goalpost after a 2003 win over Nebraska.
Back on the football field, Russ Sloan helped the Tigers reach the 1960 Orange Bowl. Sloan was a unanimous pick to the All-Big Eight team. He led the team in receiving that season with 13 receptions for 128 yards and three touchdowns.
After his playing career, he moved on to coaching at Northeast Missouri State, now known as Truman State.
Much of Sloan’s motivation coming into MU came from his high school coach.
Upon getting the scholarship offer from Missouri, his coach told him, “A certain number will flunk out, a certain number will get hurt and a certain number will get discouraged and quit. You might make it.”
He took it to heart.
“The last four words stuck with me,” Sloan said, “’You might make it.’”
The last inductee of the evening was George Williams. Williams led Missouri on the hardcourts to a combined record of 34-2 from 1920-21. He was twice named First Team All-American and once named National Player of the Year by the Helms Athletic Foundation in 1921. He averaged 18.3 points a game that season. Williams also played track & field and tennis for the university.
Lee Williams accepted the award for his grandfather.
“Everyone in this room is family,” emcee Gary Link said. "We are inducting six people into the Hall of Fame tonight. I look out there and I see a lot of Hall of Fame smiles and a lot of Hall of Fame people."