One by one, former Kansas University football players stepped forward this week to talk to the current Jayhawks about what this weekend’s game with Missouri means.
As spirited as the speeches were, they generally lacked one thing — hatred.
Former KU coach and notorious Missouri-hater Don Fambrough was not asked by KU coach Turner Gill to speak to the team. Fambrough, a regular at practices under Mark Mangino, has not had the same relationship with the new KU coach, though he repeatedly has spoken out in support of Gill. Asked if Fambrough would talk to the team, Gill cited the former KU player and coach’s health as a reason he would not.
Before leaving his house Thursday for a Thanksgiving dinner at his son’s in Baldwin City, Fambrough said, “Nothing wrong with my health. I fell and broke my hip awhile back, but I’m OK. I’m up and at ’em. I can go against almost anybody in a one-on-one drill. Anybody wants to challenge me, I’m ready.”
For the newcomers on the KU roster, Fambrough’s absence did not mean much. For the veterans, though, it was a tough pill to swallow.
“That’s definitely one of the things you wait for every year, to hear him talk and tell the stories,” senior safety Chris Harris said. “That’s something we always love to hear every year, so it’s been kind of weird. We definitely miss it.”
Gill said Tuesday that he was aware of Fambrough’s feelings about the Tigers. For those who may not know them, here are some of Fambrough’s most outrageous rants:
— In 2005, when Fambrough was asked what he would say about Missouri if someone told him he had to say something nice: “I’ve been thinking about that for years. And I haven’t come up with one good thing yet.”
— In 2006, he recalled a time when doctors told him he needed surgery and recommend he visit a surgeon in Missouri: “I wouldn’t go,” he said. “I’d rather
die. I’d rather die than have some Missouri bastard cut on me.”
— In 2009, when being interviewed by a FOX Sports sideline reporter during KU’s game against Northern Colorado: “I disliked Missouri when I played against ’em. I disliked Missouri as an assistant coach. I disliked Missouri when I was a head coach, and I dislike ’em now. And I always will.”
— In 2009, during that same interview, Fambrough told a tale about a clause in the college fund he started for his young granddaughter: “Right at the top of the policy it says, ‘If you should by any means go to the University of Missouri, this scholarship is null and void.’”
For Fambrough, who vows to this day never to spend a dime in Missouri, the Border War — 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, Mo. — is about much more than football. It’s about right and wrong.
“He definitely takes this game real serious,” Harris said. “It’s not just a game for him. That gives us some motivation.”
Fambrough does not go to the game at Arrowhead because he believes strongly the rivalry games should be played on campus.
“You bet I’m supporting the team, and I always will,” Fambrough said. “This is my school. This is where I got my degree and where I played football. I’ll always be loyal to KU.”
Fambrough, whose salty language when talking about Missouri is in conflict with Gill’s no-cussing policy, said he had been asked to speak at a charity fundraiser tonight at Lawrence Country Club. He will share his feelings about Missouri there.
Gill had former Kansas offensive lineman David Lawrence, one of Fambrough’s all-time favorite players and the current color commentator on broadcasts, speak to the team about Missouri. Former KU linebacker Banks Floodman also shared his thoughts earlier this week.
Though Fambrough won’t be able to address the Jayhawks prior to Saturday’s game, Harris gave a pretty good impersonation of what the old coach might have to say.
“He’s always just like, ‘Guys, you block hard, you block hard and then block two more counts,’” Harris said with a scruffy voice. “He’s pretty much old-school, and he just tells us that every play we have to push even harder. Even if the whistle blows, we have to keep blocking.”