Missouri athletic director Mike Alden was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Sunday, but he said the honor was far bigger than him.
“A recognition like this — if you think about all the great student-athletes we have at Mizzou, coaches, staff and all the things that they’re doing — I look at this as a reflection of all of them and the great things that they’re doing,” Alden said.
Alden returned early from the midwinter meetings of the National Association of College Directors of Athletics in Marco Island, Fla., for the induction ceremony at the University Plaza and Convention Center.
“Frankly, I was surprised when I got that call,” Alden said. “I was very humbled when Gerald Andrews called me with regards to that. I’m honored.”
But that honor is a shared one.
“To be able to represent Mizzou — the university, our athletic program, all of our kids and our staff — it’s an honor, so I’m very humbled and I’m honored that I get to be up there and be recognized really for all of their accomplishments,” Alden said.
Alden wasn’t the only honoree with local ties:
▪ Former Missouri two-way football star Andy Russell was selected to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-time team for the franchise’s 75th anniversary in 2007.
But he was thrilled to be part of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame’s 2015 induction class.
“There’s a lot of guys that I really respect, high school coaches and college coaches who have given a lot back to the youth of the country,” said Russell, who was a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time Super Bowl champion with the Steelers.
Russell, who played at Ladue (Mo.) High School, helped the Tigers go 25-3-3 from 1960-62 under coach Dan Devine, including wins in the 1961 Orange Bowl and 1962 Bluebonnet Bowl.
After football, Russell got into mountain climbing and completed the 14ers circuit Colorado mountains 14,000 feet or taller.
▪ There were 57 members of the 1969 Missouri football team on hand for its induction.
“It tells you a lot about our team,” said Sam Adams, who played middle guard and middle linebacker in Dan Devine’s penultimate season with the Tigers. “We were close, we played together and there weren’t any heroes. Everybody really loved each other and came back to see each other.”
Missouri went 9-2, including wins at Michigan and at home against ranked Nebraska and Oklahoma teams.
The Tigers, who finished the season ranked No. 6, lost 10-3 against second-ranked Penn State in the 1970 Orange Bowl.
▪ The Farmer family from Jefferson City also was part of the induction class, including former Missouri quarterbacks Mike (1969-71) and Kirk (1999-2002).
Farmer family patriarch Elliott Farmer played one season of football and four season of baseball for the Tigers, while his daughter was a 10-time All-Big Eight sprinter.
▪ Kathy Anderson, the younger sister of first-year Missouri basketball coach Kim Anderson, also was among the inductees.
“It’s certainly, as I think you’ll hear all of us say tonight, it’s very humbling and such an honor to be inducted,” Kathy said. “As you walk around the Hall of Fame today and you see all those names and all those people who are already it, it’s truly an amazing feeling.”
Kathy was an All-American basketball player at Central Missouri, where she serves as senior associate athletic director. She also played softball and competed in track and field for the Jennies.
▪ Former Chiefs kicker Nick Lowery is no stranger to Hall of Fame inductions. He was inducted into the Chiefs’ Ring of Honor in 2009, but it never gets old to be remembered and recognized.
“There’s no greater honor being connected to the craft that you were part of,” Lowery said. “The NFL Hall of Fame would be great. I think I should be in there, but this is awesome. This was my career and how I made it and came of age as a human being and a man.”
Lowery, a Dartmouth graduate and seven-time Pro Bowler who kicked for the Chiefs from 1980-96, tried out and was cut 11 times for eight teams before landing a job with the Chiefs.
▪ Former Blue Springs and St. Mary’s football coach Fred Merrell was part of the 16-member 2015 induction class.
Merrell coached Blue Springs from 1972-85. He crossed the border and coached 11 seasons at Shawnee Mission South before returning to Missouri, where he coached St. Mary’s High School in Independence from 1997-2001.
“I did not win a state championship, and the majority of the guys coming in they’ve all done that, but in 46 years there’s a lot of lives you touch,” Merrell said. “That’s very important.”
Merrell’s two sons — James, who coached 30 years at Ray-Pec, and Tom, who formerly coached at Pleasant Lea Middle School in Lee’s Summit — coached a combined 105 years.
▪ St. Joseph native Bob Roth, the great grandson of the late Newton Hillyard, was inducted for Hillyard, Inc.’s work as a national leader in basketball floor finishing.
Former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter, former Missouri State basketball player Winston Garland, former Missouri State baseball coach Keith Guttin, former Central Methodist football coach and athletic director Larry Anderson, former Glendale soccer player Ann Cook, Meramec Community College baseball coach Ric Lessmann, the late Virgil Ward and the Webb City football program also were inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.