John Kadlec has played, coached and done everything else for the Missouri football team.
For two days, though, he hated MU.
In August 1947, Kadlec rode a Greyhound bus from his hometown of St. Louis to Columbia to play on the Tigers’ offensive line. Kadlec had played football for one semester at St. Louis University, but he quit school and started a job at City Ice and Fuel.
MU wanted him, though, and that was enough for Kadlec’s parents. When an assistant coach visited the Kadlec home, Kadlec’s parents told the coach that Kadlec would play for him.
“I just was sitting there; I would never talk back to my folks or anything like that, (but) I was just thinking, ‘How am I going to get out of this?’” Kadlec said.
At the bus station, Kadlec’s father told him, “I don’t want you back here before Christmastime. I want you to stay in school.”
Kadlec cried on the trip, but after practice began, his initial doubts disappeared.
“I completely forgot about St. Louis, and I never was homesick or anything like that,” Kadlec said.
Kadlec is full of Missouri stories. Kadlec, a Tiger Radio Network color commentator, can talk for 30 minutes without pausing. Probably longer.
That’s why it is surprising that former Athletic Director Joe Castiglione had to beg Kadlec to take the broadcasting job.
In 1995, Kellen Winslow resigned from the position less than a week before the Tigers’ first home game. Castiglione asked Kadlec to replace him, and Kadlec said no. He asked again, and Kadlec said no.
Finally, Kadlec agreed to broadcast the first game. He went on to do the rest of the games that season and has continued to do color for the past nine years.
Kadlec has no formal radio training, so he said he tries to talk as naturally as possible.
“What you hear is me,” Kadlec said. “I don’t try to brush it up with perfect English or anything like that.”
Mike Kelly, who has worked alongside Kadlec for nine years as the Tiger Radio Network’s play-by-play announcer, said on the air, Kadlec shows his personality. More than that, though, he offers something no one else can, Kelly said.
“The historical perspective that he provides is not only as a Missouri alumnus and a lifelong resident of the state, but as a former football player that has connections with the program that go back to the late ’40s,” Kelly said.
“I think that’s something that is hard to find, somebody that has that broad of a historical perspective on our program.”
In 1950, his senior year, Kadlec was an All-Conference guard. He joined Don Faurot’s staff in 1951 as the freshman coach and coached offensive and defensive line under Faurot, Frank Broyles, Dan Devine and Al Onofrio.
Kadlec also works as special assistant to Athletic Director Mike Alden. During MU’s bye week last week, he traveled to Springfield, Mo., for fund-raising events.
Around the Hearnes Center administration offices, Kadlec’s colleagues call him “coach,” though he hasn’t held that job since 1977. That year, Onofrio and his staff were fired, and Kadlec moved to Manhattan, Kan., to work as director of development for the Kansas State football team. He stayed there until 1986, when he returned to Columbia to work at the same position for MU.
A poster in Kadlec’s office – “Mr. Mizzou: John Kadlec Resides Here” – and a spare windbreaker display his nickname. Jack Smith, who produces MU football commercials and has been a Tiger fan since Kadlec coached, came up with the name and gave Kadlec the jacket.
Kadlec joined MU’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
“Sometimes I have to stop and think, ‘Wait a minute, John. Boy, haven’t you been lucky working for such good people that you work for,’’’ Kadlec said.
“I’ve had a pretty nice ride.”