Just back from his latest stay in the hospital, this time for a touch of pneumonia, former Kansas University football coach and forever the program’s No. 1 ambassador, Don Fambrough, said he was looking forward to serving as host of Traveller’s group trip to the Insight Bowl.
Those fortunate enough to travel with Fambrough might want to ask him what he told J.V. Sykes when the then KU head coach asked him what he learned from a trip to study under Bear Bryant. Or ask him what Phog Allen taught him was the key to recruiting.
If, that is, you can get Fambrough to stop talking about his favorite topic, the current Kansas football team, the one that gave him the greatest gift of all, a thrilling victory against Missouri.
He’ll talk about Todd Reesing.
“He’s only about 5-8 or something, but he thinks he’s 8 feet tall,” Fambrough said. “He and that kid from Pittsburg, what a combination they are.”
That’s Kerry Meier, the recipient of Reesing’s 26-yard game-winning TD pass, delivered after a signature Reesing escape from pressure.
“Man, can he get open,” Fambrough said. “He played quarterback and he was used to seeing the different defenses. The man and the cover two, cover three, all that business. He knows that. He recognizes it. He knows what they’re in and he knows where the weakness is in every type of defense. That’s one of the reasons he gets open. The other reason is he’s just a tremendous athlete with tremendous desire and determination.”
Fambrough attended KU’s home games but didn’t make it to the Missouri game.
“I wouldn’t go to Arrowhead if they gave the place to me,” he said. “I went over there last year and that was the biggest mess I ever got involved in. Walked about a mile after we got parked.”
Told the event, from traffic to parking to the postgame atmosphere, all were far smoother this year, he didn’t want to hear it.
As is the case after nearly every game, Fambrough said, he received telephone calls from former KU football coaches Jack Mitchell and Pepper Rodgers.
“They both still love this school,” Fambrough said.
So does Fambrough’s former academic adviser for the football team, John Novotny, who pitched in when needed on the recruiting trail.
Once, Fambrough had trouble locating prize recruit Don Goode, who would become team captain at KU. Fambrough was told a Spanish teacher would help him find Goode. When the teacher told him he’d love to help him but had to teach a Spanish class for the next hour, Fambrough told him he just so happened to have the chairman of KU’s Spanish department in the car and he would be happy to pinch hit.
“How much Spanish do you know, John?” Fambrough asked Novotny.
“Two words,” Fambrough recalled Novotny answering. “Adios and Senor.”
As far as Fambrough was concerned, that was good enough to teach the class and good enough to land Goode.
Fambrough watched the Missouri game at Senor Novotny’s house. He doesn’t sit and watch football games. He paces.
“I must have walked 10 miles during that game,” he said.
It was the most refreshing 10-mile walk of the old ball coach’s life.