John Hadl, legendary KU football player and university advocate, given lifetime achievement award by KU Alumni Association

John Hadl

John Hadl, one of only three players in the history of football at the University of Kansas to have his number retired and a decades-long leader in Kansas Athletics’ Williams Education Fund, has received the highest honor bestowed by the KU Alumni Association.

The Fred Ellsworth Medallion, which has existed since 1975, is the association’s highest honor for distinguished service to KU. It’s named in tribute to Fred Ellsworth, the association’s longtime director who oversaw its operations for nearly four decades.

In a news release, KU men’s basketball coach Bill Self said Hadl provided invaluable assistance in building and improving campus athletic facilities, including Anschutz Pavilion, the Wagnon Student-Athlete Center, the Ward Family Scholarship Suites at David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium, and the Booth Family Hall of Athletics, among others.

But beyond his work, Hadl, 80, is a friend to everyone he meets, Self said.

“John’s ability to make every Jayhawk he met feel welcome was such a gift,” Self said. “You would always leave John feeling better about KU and inspired to give back.”

A lifelong Lawrence resident, Hadl first gained acclaim for his performance on the football field in the 1960s, first at Lawrence High School and then as both a running back and quarterback for KU. Hadl still holds the school record for longest punt in history, at 94 yards, and for decades held the record for longest interception return. That record was broken by Aqib Talib during KU’s historic run to the 2007 Orange Bowl.

Hadl, according to KU’s news release, was the first university football player to be twice named an All-American twice, in 1960 and ’61, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1994. He also went on to have a 16-year career in the NFL, most of which was spent with the then-San Diego Chargers.

In the NFL, Hadl earned six Pro Bowl nominations and was named the NFL’s Man of the Year in 1971. He is also a member of the Chargers’ Hall of Fame, KU said. After he retired from the NFL in 1977, Hadl coached both for KU and in the NFL for a number of years before starting with the Williams Education Fund in 1988.

Normally, recipients of the Fred Ellsworth Medallion are honored at a ceremony and dinner reception, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s tribute was done virtually, KU said. It can be viewed at

Contact Conner Mitchell

Have a story idea, news or information to share? Contact KU reporter Conner Mitchell:


Welcome to the new Our old commenting system has been replaced with Facebook Comments. There is no longer a separate username and password login step. If you are already signed into Facebook within your browser, you will be able to comment. If you do not have a Facebook account and do not wish to create one, you will not be able to comment on stories.