Kansas University football royalty turned out Thursday at Alvamar Country Club to honor a man for the season in which he proved he is head coaching material.
And get this, in the age of egotistical college coaches who have grown so accustomed to having their rings kissed they act as if they're being magnanimous for letting the masses close enough to pucker up, Mark Mangino appeared to enjoy himself mingling with the most hard-core KU football fans.
Mangino was loose, funny and in good spirits. He started his speech in front of the KU Quarterback Club by calling attention to the royalty in the room.
Not surprisingly, Don Fambrough, who no doubt was trying to think of a way to convince the players Quantrill was a University of Houston alumnus, was first. He called him "coach emeritus on our staff."
"You couldn't train your pet to be as loyal," Mangino said. "He even comes to practice on Sundays. He came rolling in about 10, 15 minutes late for practice on Sunday. I said, 'Where have you been? You're late for practice.' He said, 'It's not my fault. It was the preacher.' He loves KU football so much he blamed God."
Next, up Mangino spotlighted the man next to whom he sat during lunch, Max Falkenstein.
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"Max made it known this is going to be his last year and he's not going to do a retro tour like the Rolling Stones," Mangino said. "We're kind of excited. Max is going out in style with football. He called the game with Nebraska that ended the 36-year streak. He called the Iowa State game, which he said was one of the most exciting he's called. And now he's enjoying his last KU football game at a bowl game. Max, we've enjoyed it. I've only been here four of the 60 years, but I tell you what, I've enjoyed it."
Then Mangino thanked former assistant coach and current KU QB Club president Pat Henderson for his loyalty. Next, he pointed to the biggest name in Lawrence football.
"I knew him as a kid from watching him on TV, but when I came here I didn't know him from a box of rocks and he didn't know me from a box of rocks," Mangino said. "But from day one this guy saw something in our football program that he thought was right about it. Even through tough times. Even when the lynch mob is standing outside the stadium waiting for me, this guy has supported our program and me without wavering a bit. That's loyalty. And that's John Hadl."
Hadl wasn't wearing No. 21. He was wearing the sort of clothes you see on the cover of GQ. He dressed for the occasion. Mangino and Hadl are pals. Not surprising. They both have personalities that register high on the down-to-earth meter. Yet, you get the impression the main reason Hadl likes Mangino is he believes he can win big.
Mangino saved the best for last.
"The last person I want to introduce is the person who has stood by me when things were bad, when we were making $8,600 a year as a graduate assistant, when we had to use credit cards to pay for our kids' Christmas gifts because I was just a lowly graduate assistant," he said. "My wife Mary Jane."
OK, that was enough nice talk for one day. It was time to go yell at football players.