The making of a legend

Pete Adkins was named a Missouri Sports Legend by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame on Wednesday afternoon.

We have a legend in our midst.

Many of us have known this for a long time, but it's now official --- Pete Adkins is being named a Missouri Sports Legend by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

This, sports fans, is what you'd call a big deal.

He'll be just the 25th member of this exclusive club, joining the likes of Stan Musial, Lou Brock, George Brett, Len Dawson, Lamar Hunt, Jack Buck and Don Faurot.

Heard of them?

Adkins is the first high school coach to be named to this exclusive club --- a club that doesn't include smoking jackets, pipes, brandy, a comfy chair or a fireplace.

But it does include a bronze bust at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame's Walk of Legends in Springfield.

The official announcement was made Wednesday; the unveiling of the bust and the induction ceremony will be held April 14 at Capitol Plaza.

(It was also announced that eight individuals and two programs --- all based in Central Missouri --- will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame on April 14. They are Ray Hentges, the Helias wrestling program, Dennis and Roberta Licklider, Keith Weber, Joe Crede, Bob Burchard, Tony Galbreath, Dr. Chris Leslie and the Lincoln Track and Field program. More on these worthy honorees to come in the days and weeks ahead.)

"It really hasn't sunk in yet," said Adkins, who's been a member of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame since 1986. "When I heard the news, I sure didn't know this was in the works. Surprise, surprise, surprise, I guess.

"They just don't reach as low as a high school coach. These other guys are high rollers, very deserving and very-well thought of. They're national figures."

They've actually let journalists/broadcasters in there --- Buck and Bob Broeg.

"Heck, Tom Loeffler might be in there some day," Adkins said with a big laugh. "They just can't put your bald head on a statue, it would shine like a diamond in a goose butt and blind everybody."

(Wipe a tear here, I did.)

If you're not sure who Pete Adkins is, here you go: His fabulous football career started in the 1950s with a coaching stint at Centralia, where he won 51 games. Rest assured, he was only getting started. Here's what followed with the Jays:

* a 71-game winning streak in the 60s, which was a national record for a long, long time.

* three consecutive state championships in the 70s.

* two state championships in the 80s. From 1986-94, a span of nine seasons, the Jays lost a total of two---- TWO--- games in the regular season.

* four state championships in the 90s, including four in five years from 1990-94. His final game was the only fitting-end possible, a win in the state title game, his 354th win with the Jays and his 405th overall. He's remains the winningest coach in Missouri history and is No. 8 on the all-time list, nationally.

For Pete's sake, he was good. He was so good, they named a football stadium after him, he was featured in a PBS documentary "On Broad Shoulders," and he was even the subject of a music video by Melissa Etheride, "Breathe."

Now this.

"This ranks right up there," Adkins said. "Deserving or not deserving, it's quite an honor."

There was no secret to his success.

"We just outworked everybody and had more desire to be the best," Adkins said. "And our coaches were the best teachers of fundamentals at any level; we could out-coach and out-fundamental everybody.

"That was our secret and that's what made us successful --- 99 times out of 100 when we walked on the field, we knew we were going to win. The players knew that, the coaches knew that, and I think the fans knew that.

"If these guys listened and would follow us, they would be successful. We had some great material, some great kids. But we took some average kids and they played a level or two higher than they could have played."

Pete made average players good, good players great, and great players unstoppable. But it wasn't always easy playing for him.

This, however, was not a popularity contest.

"I didn't really care if they liked me or not," Adkins said, "because we really weren't into that game. We were there to make players, win football games and help them be successful later on in life like many, many, many of them have done."


"You knew what you were getting into and you knew what the expectations were," said Mike Bedosky, an All-America for the Jays and a 1988 graduate.

"History never beat the next opponent and he always made sure we knew that. My senior year, he brought me down enough to realize what I had to play for. He made us understand that if we didn't work as a team, we wouldn't amount to anything.

"We were only going to be as strong as our weakest link."

Bedosky --- who's now an assistant football coach and the principal at a middle school in Georgia --- fought back tears during our conversation.

"Coach is phenomenal," Bedosky said, "and what he taught me both on and off the football field, it's not even funny. He taught me to be a man."

It wasn't just about wins and losses.

"That's what made the game of coaching so great," Adkins said. "Through the years, you could see that a lot of things that happened on the field changed their lives. They begged for more, they wanted more ... the more we put in front of them, the more they loved it, and the more they wanted to work to be the best, at football and everything else."

There was a lot more to Pete than 405 wins.

"He cared so much about his players," said Mike Farmer, who played for Adkins in the late 1960s. "That's what a lot of people don't see, how much he really cared about every guy who played for him.

"A lot of people on the outside looking in, you can look at him and say he's too gruff and that he's a really tough guy, and that's where it stops. But I just think it's not a fair description if they don't really know him.

"He touched more lives in a positive way than anybody I've ever been associated with."

That's what legends do.


Missouri Sports Legends (listed by year of induction)

(Personal note: How are Bob Gibson and Tom Watson not a part of this group?)

1999 --- Stan Musial (Cardinals baseball), Len Dawson (Chiefs football)

2000 --- Norm Stewart (MU basketball), Payne Stewart (golf), Jack Buck (broadcasting)

2001 --- Don Faurot (MU football), Bob Broeg (sportswriter)

2002 --- Buck O'Neil (baseball), John Q. Hammons (golf, other Missouri sports interests)

2003 --- George Brett (Royals baseball)

2004 --- Hank Stram (Chiefs football), Lamar Hunt (Chiefs football, AFL/NFL)

2005 --- Red Schoendienst (Cardinals baseball)

2006 --- Bobby Bell (Chiefs football), Lou Brock (Cardinals baseball), Rusty Wallace (auto racing)

2007 --- Bob Petit (basketball)

2008 --- Whitey Herzog (Royals/Cardinals baseball)

2010 --- Dan Dierdorf (MU/Cardinals football)

2011 --- Ozzie Smith (Cardinals baseball), John Kadlec (MU football, broadcasting), Gary Filbert (helped start Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and the Show-Me State Games)

2012 --- Dick Vermeil (Chiefs/Rams football), Bill Virdon (baseball)

2013 --- Pete Adkins (high school football)

(The bronze bust of Pete Adkins will be unveiled --- along with the induction of these other Hall of Famers from Central Missouri --- during a dinner and ceremony April 14 at Capitol Plaza. Tickets --- which start at $100 --- along with sponsorships may be purchased by calling 417-889-3100, or by contacting Jerald Andrews Tickets are limited, so you'd be advised to purchase them as soon as possible. The event is sponsored by Central Bank.)