During more than 50 years at Missouri as a player, coach, administrator and broadcaster, John Kadlec was dubbed Mr. Mizzou.
Mr. Mizzou died Wednesday at age 86 in Columbia.
“John Kadlec was a special person,” Missouri athletic director Mike Alden said in a release from MU. “He was one of those rare people who made everyone feel special. The way he could light up a room was really something to see.
“He loved Mizzou so much and was such a blessing to those of us who had the good fortune of being part of his life. I worked closely with Coach on many issues over the years, and he never hesitated to be direct, supportive and straightforward. His honesty and candor were his trademarks.”
Kadlec was among the first people Gary Pinkel met when he took over the football program in 2001.
“He was someone I could always talk to. He always had some great wisdom to share, and he was always there for me in the toughest times,” Pinkel said. “He was a ball coach, plain and simple, and he loved Mizzou with all he was worth. It’s hard to put into words how much he’ll be missed.”
Kadlec, a St. Louis native, arrived at MU in 1947 to play football for Don Faurot. He stayed on as a graduate assistant after his playing career ended.
Kadlec, who coached the freshman team until 1954, was promoted to be a varsity assistant in 1954.
He worked on Doug Weaver’s staff at Kansas State during 1960-66 before returning to the Tigers as an assistant coach under Dan Devine and Al Onofrio during 1966-77.
“He had a huge influence on all his players,” Pinkel said. “Thousands of players, I’d see at reunions, these guys just embraced him. I feel so fortunate and blessed to have a guy like that in my life, so we’re going to miss him dearly. But I certainly feel grateful that I have an opportunity to know him the time I did.”
Kadlec returned to K-State in an administrative capacity after his coaching career wrapped up before coming back to MU in 1986 as the director of the Tiger Scholarship Fund.
When the color analyst job for the Tiger Radio Network came open unexpectedly a few days before the 1995 season opener, Kadlec joined Mike Kelly for what turned into a 16-year on-air partnership.
“I can’t imagine a more dedicated servant to the University of Missouri than John Kadlec,” Kelly said. “He was such an impressive man, all the years he devoted to Mizzou and to the football program he loved so much, and the impact he had on the lives of thousands of people, including me, was just amazing. He was a devoted husband, father and friend to so many. It’s heartbreaking to lose him, but somebody like Kaddy will never be forgotten.”
Kadlec, a 1996 MU Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, retired from the radio booth in 2010.
The practice fields behind the Mizzou Athletic Training Center were renamed in Kadlec’s honor in 2005.
“Coach Kadlec touched many people in his life, and everyone he touched, he made them feel special,” said special assistant to the athletic director Gary Link, who also calls Tigers basketball games. “I will always remember his ‘crooked smile’ and the twinkle in his eye, and he will live in my heart forever.”
Missouri fans are encouraged to share their memories of Kadlec on Mizzou Athletics’ Facebook page.
“I’ll always treasure my time with him and his family,” Alden said. “There will never be another person like John Kadlec. We will miss him.”
There will be a visitation for Kadlec from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday at Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church, 903 Bernadette Drive in Columbia. The funeral mass is at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Our Lady of Lourdes.