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Huddling up again

At football reunion, reminiscence mingles with hope for future
Sunday, April 22, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:12 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008
“That’s Pa-pa,” Bob Fisher III says to his son, Brook Fisher, while they look for Brook’s grandfather, Bob Fisher Jr., in a picture of MU’s 1961 Orange Bowl team. Fisher Jr. (Pa-pa) was a guard and played in both the 1960 and 1961 Orange Bowls.

John Kadlec, former Missouri football coach and current radio announcer, milled around the Mizzou Athletic Training Complex. He was never alone, always telling a story or shaking a hand.

Former Missouri running back Brock Olivo lingered around the new weight room, talking to old friends for the first time in years.

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Along with approximately 150 other former Missouri football players, they ate lunch, toured the new athletic facilities and reminisced during a reunion before Saturday’s Black and Gold game at Memorial Stadium.

For Olivo, it was his first reunion, and he traveled all the way from Italy, where he is living and working as a consultant, connecting United States companies to Italian companies.

“Seeing everyone after not seeing them for years is awesome,” said Olivo, who played at Missouri from 1994 to 1997, rushing for 3,026 yards in his career.

Olivo also shared a sentiment that was prevalent among the players who toured the training complex: He was in awe. The former players and their families marveled at the new weight room, which features several Olympic lifting platforms, and a turf second level with hurdles. One former player, Randy Jostes, marveled as he exited the football locker room: “It’s gotten to be a country club!”

“I’m wowed by this. I want to come back and see if I have any eligibility left,” Olivo said.

“This is a great sign. This tells me that the university and the people with the money are behind (the athletic program).”

Sorry, Missouri fans. Olivo, despite looking like he could still rush for 100 yards on Saturdays, isn’t eligible to play anymore.

Coby Crowl, who played offensive line from 1988 to 1992, explained that when he was at Missouri, the football locker rooms were where the current soccer locker rooms are and that the old dining hall was just a fraction of the size of the new one.

“It wasn’t even a quarter of the size that it is now,” Crowl said.

For others, the building was a sign of a commitment to excellence after a period of struggles that a few former players called “the dark ages.” From 1985 to 2000, before Gary Pinkel’s arrival at Missouri, the Tigers were just 56-108.

“This whole building is fantastic. They should be able to recruit with anyone in the country,” said Bob Meyers, who was looking at pictures of the 1972 and 1973 teams with former player Larry Frost.

Meyers played at Missouri and coached under Al Onofrio.

Olivo also believed that the building would be a great chip for Missouri’s future success.

“When I was here, Missouri was coming to knock on your door. Now guys want to come here,” Olivo said.

And, as if right on cue, no more than 15 minutes after Olivo said that, Parkway West quarterback Blaine Gabbert, a Missouri recruit, emerged from a meeting with Missouri coaches.

But Gabbert wasn’t the only recruit also getting a firsthand look at the facilities. While the reunion was going on, numerous high schoolers were taken on a tour before they walked across the street to the game.

Missouri athletic director Mike Alden was impressed with the turnout at the reunion, especially with the mix of attendees. Former players like Mike Cook, who was playing in the Black and Gold game just a year ago, interacted with players who played at Missouri more than 50 years ago. Alden was also very glad to hear the favorable impressions that the attendees had about the complex.

“It exceeds our expectations,” Alden said. “If you take a look at the guys that come back, those responses mean more than anything.”


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