Coach lives on in team’s memory

John Ware talks to the football team after a practice April 13, 2004. He was beginning training for his first year as head coach. Ware died Sept. 27.

File Photo

John Ware talks to the football team after a practice April 13, 2004. He was beginning training for his first year as head coach. Ware died Sept. 27.

Leaving a legacy that no doubt will remain for years, John Ware, died Sept. 27.

Ware, head football coach, suffered an apparent heart attack around 10 a.m. in his office. Members of his coaching staff and the medical trainers attempted to revive him before emergency services arrived. He was transported to Freeman Hospital, where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Sallie Beard, athletics director, said the entire campus is grieving Ware’s death.

“John Ware had connected with this entire campus,” said Sallie Beard, athletics director. “He had given us a new fresh breath of air.”

Keeth Matheny, assistant head football coach, said Ware was a “wonderful, wonderful man.”

“I love John Ware,” he said, “and like all the guys I’m grieving, but I am also grieving the loss of one of my best friends, if not my best friend.”

Matheny, who will take over as head coach, said Ware was someone who made a person feel better just by talking.

“He made you feel like anything was possible,” Matheny said.

Beard said Ware loved the game of football and working with young men.

“He knew that he had opportunity to impact their lives,” she said. “John Ware loved the game of football, but it was merely a vehicle for him to have an impact on young men.”

Beard said Ware was a man with a vision.

“That vision was beginning to become clear to our community and to our campus,” she said. “I know that he and his staff transformed the attitude on the campus of Missouri Southern State University. It was almost palpable – the impact that he had in just a short period of time.”

She also said Ware had established a connection with the community.

“When an individual reaches out as John did, in the manner that he reached out, it can’t help but having a lasting legacy,” Beard said.

Beard said she had a talk with the team and told the players to commit themselves to continuing Ware’s vision and legacy.

“I talked to them about how I hear football, perhaps more than any other sport, talking about the family connection, and that this was the time to certainly call upon one another to be the family,” she said.

Matheny said the team will do everything possible to be classy in handling the situation.

“We, as a staff, expect our guys to handle this,” he said. “Tonight, they will grieve.”

Matheny said the team is dedicating the season to Ware.

“That (Ware’s death and the grieving process) does not change that there are five games remaining – five opportunities to make a great man proud, to make a statement as to his legacy,” Matheny said.

He said the players will wear a patch on their helmets depicting Ware’s initials and the symbol of “one percent” starting Saturday.

“Because he believed the way you become a giant of a man, like he was, is by getting better one percent everyday,” Matheny said.

He said no comment was ever made about not playing this weekend’s game, and everyone believed it would be disrespectful to Ware not to play.

Matheny said he, the staff and the team all feel a heartfelt sorrow for Ware’s wife, Melissa.

“Our prayers are with Melissa and John Ware’s family and all the players and people that were so close to him,” Matheny said. “And I ask that everyone in the community join in those prayers.”

Members of the football team were visibly shaken by the unexpected death.

“Anytime you lose a coach to a coaching change, it hurts,” said Atiba Bradley, senior line backer. “But to lose a coach to a death, it hurts that much more.”

Dustin Bromley, senior wide receiver, described Ware as a “big, old teddy bear” and a man of few words.

“Anytime you had any questions or had to talk or anything, you could go into his office,” Bromley said. “He would be there for you, kind of like a father figure. I’m privileged to say that he was my coach.”

Jason Stumbo, senior center, said not a day went by when he didn’t talk to Ware in his office.

“He taught me more than stuff I’d take on the field,” Stumbo said. “He taught me stuff that I can use later in life.

At the time of press, funeral arrangements had not been announced, nor were the results of Ware’s autopsy.

Beard said she was expecting a special recognition at Saturday’s game, which will bring together Southern and Truman State University, where Ware coached in various positions for nearly 20 years before coming to Joplin.

Ware was also a champion power lifter in the late 1980s and early 1990s. He was in his second year as the Lions’ head coach.