'Mr. Mizzou' John Kadlec dies at 86

“He was Mizzou through and through,” Mike Alden said.

Athletic director Mike Alden can clearly remember the first time he met John Kaldec.

Alden was working at Arizona State University in 1990 with football coach Dan Devine, who had previous coached at Missouri. Kadlec came down to Tempe to visit Devine, and, one day, Alden said, he heard a booming voice come down the hall. Alden stepped out of his office and was introduced to Kaldec, not knowing the two would grow to be friends later on.

Kadlec, a Missouri legend, died Wednesday morning at the age of 86. There will be a visitation Friday and a Mass Saturday, both at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.

The former assistant football coach — dubbed “Mr. Mizzou” by many fans — resided in Columbia, and worked for the university for 50 years. He served various roles in the athletic department, including broadcasting Missouri football games for the Tiger Radio Network.

“The passing of coach Kadlec is a very sad and significant part of our history,” Alden said Wednesday night. “He was a person that was unbelievably engaging; he was humble and had a tremendous sense of humor.”

Kadlec came to Mizzou to play football for legendary coach Don Faurot in 1947. He was an all-conference lineman and stayed as a graduate assistant following his senior year. The coach jumped around but finally found his way back home in 1966 and served as an assistant football coach under Devine and Devine’s successor, Al Onofrio, for 11 years.

In 1986, Kadlec took over as the director of the Tiger Scholarship Fund, where he mainly helped in fundraising for athletics. Even after his coaching days were over, administrators and peers still called him “Coach.”

“I worked closely with Coach on many issues over the years,” Alden said. “And he never hesitated to be direct, supportive and straightforward. His honesty and candor were his trademarks.”

Alden said he has many fond memories of Kadlec. The two worked together for 17 years in Mizzou’s athletic program and spent time together traveling the state on recruiting trips and speaking events.

Every road trip with Kadlec was a new experience, Alden said. Whether “Coach” was singing at the top of his lungs or constantly telling Alden about the best pork tenderloin he’d ever had, he cherished every moment.

“I’d never eaten pork tenderloin in my life until I met Coach Kadlec,” Alden said.

Alden recalled a particular moment at a football game at the University of Nevada, Reno. A prominent Mizzou booster needed a wheelchair to get to the press box. Alden hadn't been paying attention, but all of a sudden he looked over and saw Kadlec pushing the wheelchair.

“I saw John Kadlec pushing a guy almost his age in a wheelchair,” Alden said. “They were just talking, and I looked at that and thought, ‘How selfless is that?’ Here are two guys that have known each other for 60 years. One’s pushing the other in a wheelchair, and they’re going to watch the Tigers.”

Alden said he admired Kadlec's ability to connect with people, especially student athletes. Kadlec loved Mizzou football, but he also made an effort to attend most other sporting events; softball was a particular favorite.

“John was such a lovely individual who brought such a positive force to his interactions with everyone,” former Chancellor Brady Deaton said in a statement.

“I don’t care what the day brought, he lifted everybody up with his love for life and his unbridled optimism," he said. "His knowledge of football was naturally beyond reproach, but most important for Anne (Deaton) and I was how John always put his family first. We’ve lost a powerful force for the entire University, no question, not just for Tiger Football. He’ll be dearly missed.”

Throughout his life, Kadlec was a player, coach, administrator, broadcaster and ambassador for Mizzou Athletics and the university.

“He was Mizzou through and through,” Alden said.

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