Gary Pinkel was in his first year with the Missouri football program when the greatest national tragedy in recent memory unfolded on Sept. 11, 2001.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
Pinkel and his staff were set for a meeting ahead of a showdown with Michigan State when hijackers flew a commercial airliner into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 7:46 a.m. Central time. Another plane hit the South Tower less than 20 minutes.
A half-hour after that, yet another plane hit the Pentagon and a fourth plane later crashed near Shanksville, Pa., shortly after 10 a.m.
"It was a day that had a huge impact on obviously every person in this country and how fragile our freedom is," Pinkel said.
Tigers defensive coordinator Dave Steckel, a former Marine, joined Pinkel and several other veterans for the discussion.
Steckel talked about losing two former college teammates from his playing days at NCAA Division II Kutztown State, who were working in the World Trade Center.
Pinkel talked about that day as well as leadership and football during a half-hour Google Hangout sponsored by Veterans United with current and former servicemen Wednesday during a Patriot Day webcast.
Pinkel also opened up about his late father, George, a veteran of the U.S. Navy who served in Guam during World War II, and the advice he gave after a tough loss he endured before coming to the Tigers.
"When I was head coach at Toledo, I remember one of the lowest points, I was getting up Sunday morning to go do my TV show," Pinkel said. "I knew my dad was going to say something to me as I left."
Pinkel was down in the dumps after the defeat when George told him to "go fix it" as he headed out the door to get in his car.
It was gruff and not what Pinkel wanted to hear, but he stewed on it during the drive to the TV station.
"That’s something I didn’t want to hear, but it was the best thing he could have ever said to me," Pinkel said.
It’s a message George learned during his time in the Navy.
Pinkel also discussed a recent excursion by close to 40 members of his football team, who took part in leadership training with the U.S. Army National Guard.
"They came back and they just raved about it," Pinkel said. "They talked about leadership skills and working together as a team, the importance of trusting the people next to you and earning that trust, the accountability that you have with one another."
Missouri’s basketball team followed suit after the football team’s overwhelmingly positive experience.
"Certainly, we got an awful lot out of that and we’re very, very appreciative of that," Pinkel said. "I know Frank Haith and their players went down because of that and all the great things they heard and the great experiences our players had."
To watch a replay of the Google Hangout, just follow this link.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.