Road Warrior: Fan turns wooden leg into Mizzou memorabilia

St. Louis resident Brian Garner has attended every Mizzou home game in the past eight years and has also traveled to most road games.
Brian Garner stands in front of a "GO VOLS" wall off of the Tennessee River for Missouri's road game against No. 19 Tennessee on Nov. 19.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — To understand what Missouri football means to Brian Garner, look no further than his wooden leg.

A Mizzou Tigers sticker sits just below the knee with black Sharpie autographs from Mizzou players and coaches surrounding it in every direction. Some have begun to fade away, but with good reason: Garner, a St. Louis resident, has used his right leg as mobile memorabilia for over four years.

From Chase Daniel and Gary Pinkel to Kentrell Brothers and Michael Scherer, more than 85 Mizzou icons have signed the wooden limb. Garner picks up more and more autographs each week, since the season-ticket holder attends every home football game and most away games, the most recent being the loss to Tennessee on Saturday. However, Garner, 60, says his passion for the Tigers trumps the emotions of the losses.

It took prompting from his son for Garner, an amputee for 56 years because of a birth defect in his hip, to turn his leg into memorabilia.

“He goes, ‘Dad, why don’t you have them sign your leg?’” Garner said. “Well, I never thought about it.”

The outgoing Garner always enjoyed reaching out to and interacting with those involved with Missouri athletics. He often connects with players on social media, and throughout his time around Mizzou, he has gotten to know many parents, including the parents of Eric Beisel, Adam Ploudre and Joey Burkett.

Recognizing Garner from mutual friends on Facebook, Burkett’s mother stopped him at a game this year. She said she wanted Garner to meet Joey, one of Garner’s favorite players.

“That almost brought me to tears,” Garner said. “I am nobody special.”

The countless individuals who have signed his leg might beg to differ, though. Many players tell Brian they are honored to sign his leg, and he has yet to be turned down.

Garner is giddy about every name on his leg, but he said Pinkel’s means the most.

Pinkel, who became the winningest coach in Missouri history during his tenure from 2001-15, made Garner a Missouri fan. Garner said he didn’t care about Tiger sports 15 years ago. Pinkel’s teams changed that, though.

After attending a few games, including some Border War games, Garner became hooked. He became a season ticket holder and has not missed a home game in eight years. Garner also attended all 14 games in 2013, including the SEC Championship Game.

His son and his son’s wife, along with his daughter and her boyfriend, attend many games with him. Garner’s wife isn’t into Missouri football, but she respects his excitement for it.

“My wife said she wishes she had one passion about anything like I do this football team,” Garner said. “I love this program.”

Garner said he was devastated when Pinkel retired, but if anyone could help him get over the sadness, it was Barry Odom.

“I was thrilled to death when he got the job,” Garner said. “To watch the reaction of the players in that room, what does that tell you?”

Garner said it hasn’t been easy experiencing a 3-8 season from his beloved Tigers, but that doesn’t mean he has ever considered switching teams.

“My colors don’t run,” Garner said. “I am a loyal fan. I will be here when they are doing well, and I will be here when they aren’t doing so well.”

He said he comes into each game optimistic even when things look bleak mainly because he has so much fun traveling, whether it be to Columbia, Baton Rouge or Knoxville.

The traveling to watch Missouri has kept him young, his daughter, Lauren, said.

“He acts much more like a kid than he did when he was younger,” she said. “That is fun to watch.”

Garner doesn’t take any medicine or pills. Instead, he has a weekly dose of Mizzou football.

“I am having more fun now at 60 years old than I ever did when I was 20 or 30,” Garner said. “I am having the time of my life.”

It’s not a cheap hobby for Garner, who has worked in rehab medicine for 35 years. He said he doesn’t care, though.

“When I die, I can’t take my money with me,” he said.

For now, Garner takes his stories and wooden leg with him to every game he attends. He doesn’t plan to stop anytime soon.

“I’ll be there,” Garner said. “Good going or tough going, I will be there.”

Edited by Peter Baugh | pbaugh@themaneater.com

Share: Facebook / Twitter / Google+

Article comments

0 comments

This item does not have any approved comments yet.

Post a comment

Please provide a full name for all comments. We don't post obscene, offensive or pure hate speech.