Fambrough missing from possible final MU-Kansas game

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Something will be missing for Kansas when it takes the field Saturday against Missouri. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember, Don Fambrough won’t deliver the pregame speech.

The former player and coach died in September at age 88 from injuries sustained in a fall.

Fambrough hated Missouri, both the state and the university, more than just about anything, and he made sure the players knew that when he gave his annual speech days before the Border Showdown.

“Every Mizzou game he would come in and talk to us that Thursday before the game and get us all hyped up and tell us the history,” defensive tackle Richard Johnson, a graduate of Jefferson City High School, said. “That’s going to be a big thing with the freshmen — they’re really going to miss the history and the legacy of what the MU-KU game really means to everybody around here. It may be the last time we play for a long time.”

With the Tigers heading to the SEC after this season, and Kansas balking at continuing the rivalry out of conference, the series could be decided Saturday.

Kansas believes it’s tied, 55-55-9, though Missouri believes it has the edge due to a victory by the Jayhawks in which they used an ineligible player.

Fambrough, of course, would say that game was won by Kansas. As a player from 1946-47, and later during a short stint as coach, Fambrough went 6-4 against Missouri.

“He’s been a guy that’s been in this program for a while and been fired once or twice and came back and still pressed on toward his goal of trying to change this program,” linebacker Steven Johnson said. “That speech is kind of famous. I’ve heard it two or three times and I still remember ‘fighting for one more inch.’ If we take on his mental attitude about the whole thing, we should be successful.”

Wide receiver Kale Pick said Fambrough would be at practices year-in and year-out, even though he wasn’t coaching. Pick was impressed with how dedicated Fambrough was to the program, and like Johnson he’ll miss the speech before Saturday’s game.

“He used to say he’d go in Missouri and he wouldn’t even buy gas there or any supplies that he needed there,” Pick said. “He didn’t want to spend any money in the state of Missouri, which is definitely pretty funny. He definitely hated Missouri the most.”

Pick grew up in Dodge City, Kan., and knew all about the rivalry, but had never heard Fambrough speak. He said the speech his freshman year sticks out, and remembers how his entire class was amazed at how much Fambrough hated Missouri.

Tight end A.J. Steward is from St. Louis and grew up cheering for Missouri football, but wound up crossing the border to play at Kansas. He said Fambrough’s speeches educated him more about the history of the rivalry, which traces its roots all the way back to the Civil War.

Steward had family members attend Missouri and his cousin is a freshman there. His family wanted Steward to give them tickets, but Steward balked because they’d be wearing Missouri colors.

“Just to hear his perspective on it made me realize that this is bigger than just a game,” Steward said. “It’ll be emotional for a lot of people not having Coach Fambrough there, but that should put even more passion in our hearts to play. He really wants us to win this game, especially since it might be the last time we ever play Missouri.”

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