"What a Man!"

"What a man, all I can say is what a man" ...John Kadlec in his rememberance of Al Onofrio this week in Arizona.

John Kadlec always speaks from his heart. For most of his adult life John has been a front man for the University of Missouri football program. Once again, at the funeral mass for Coach Onofrio, John spoke from his heart. It was truly an uplifting experience for Coach Onofrio's family and friends.

Coach Kadlec gave tribute to Al by describing him as the best teacher he has ever known in the football profession. It was interesting to hear Coach Kadlec praise Al not only for his defensive coaching prowess, but also for his knowledge of the offensive side of the field. He also described his personal pain at losing a great friend and mentor.

John reminded everyone in the church of the hurt Al experienced when he was relieved of his duties at a time when his incredible recruiting efforts had filled the Missouri roster with some of the greatest players to ever wear the black and gold. He also reminded everyone that Al never displayed any bitterness over the decision and that every time the University asked Al to come back, for whatever reason, Al made the trip.

He described the love and affection Al always gave to his wonderful wife Joanie, and he went on to praise these two for raising their five sons and one daughter to become outstanding adults. John, Eddie, Lou, Mary Ann, Mike, and Tommy Onofrio and their families were all in attendance.

Also in attendance were Mike Alden, Joe Castiglione, and Gene Smith, the athletic director of ASU. A number of former college coaches were present including Larry Smith and Hank Kuhlmann.

One of the wonderful stories Coach Kadlec passed on about Al was how he handled the adversity of being absolutely destroyed by Nebraska, 62-0 in 1972, and then having to go to South Bend to play the number 3 ranked Fighting Irish of Notre Dame. He told of Al gathering the coaches together before he went in to the locker room to face the players and telling them "we will not look at any film of this game, I don't want you to watch it and I don't want the players to watch it. We all know what happened today and it is over. Anyone who takes even a second to watch this film will be on thin ice with me." Al then went into the locker room and told his players "the coaches know and you know what we didn't get done today. You will never have to watch a second of tape of this game to show you what happened because you already know. We are going in to South Bend to beat Notre Dame and we will do it because you know what it is going to take to win!" He kept his word and the players never had to watch that tape. As most of you already know, Missouri went to South Bend and beat the Irish 30-26 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score. The captains of the 1972 squad, Dan McDonough and Scott Sodergren were present at the funeral along with one of the captains of 1973 squad Jim Schnietz. Many other Tiger players were there as well.

Onofrio spent 20 years on the Missouri football coaching staff, first as the architect of Dan Devine's rock-solid defenses from 1958-70, a period of time in which MU was one of the nation's most successful programs. He then became the man who succeeded Devine as head coach for a term that ran from 1971-77. His record as a head coach during those seven seasons was 38-41, but he established MU as the upset king of college football, leading the Tigers to dramatic victories over Notre Dame at South Bend, Southern Cal at Los Angeles, Alabama at Birmingham, Ohio State at Columbus, Arizona State at Tempe and Nebraska at both Lincoln and Columbia.

In his time at Mizzou, Onofrio coached four All-Americans, and had more than 30 of his players go on to professional careers in the National Football League. As a head coach, he led MU to two bowl appearances - the 1972 Fiesta Bowl and the 1973 Sun Bowl. His '73 squad was his most successful, as the Tigers went 8-4 that year, and ended the season ranked 17th nationally after a 34-17 triumph over Auburn in the Sun Bowl. Onofrio was a 1993 inductee into the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame.

One of the principal architects of the most glorious decade in Missouri football history is now gone. The staff at InsideMizzou.com hopes all of you will take a moment of your time to appreciate the legacy of both the coach and the man. Al Onofrio was one of the true titans of Missouri football, and he will be missed.


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