Jared Lankford: A gentleman, a kindness and a true son
Growing up, our television only picked up three-and-a-half stations.
My father never saw the need for satellite intervention, so during the football season, I was stuck with whatever games were nationally-televised.
The problem was, I was a Missouri Tiger fan. The only time anything Tiger football-related showed up on the national airwaves at my house was when the station displayed the Big 8 Conference standings.
In order to follow the Tigers in southwest Missouri, you had to listen to the radio broadcast, which I did religiously.
Since the 1991-1992 season, Missouri has had the same play-by-play announcer, Mike Kelly.
Kelly's baritone voice painted a vivid picture of each game in my head. Even though I wasn't at the game, I saw every play as it developed.
Kelly was as much a part of my sports youth as anyone.
As fate would have it, my brother, Jamie, through the insurance business and a mutual friend, was able to strike up a friendship with Mike.
Mainly, they exchanged emails, with an occasional phone call or face-to-face greeting at a game.
In the late 1990s, Seneca made a run in the football playoffs. Kelly wished the Indians luck over the airwaves, due to a conversation he had with my brother about the excitement of the game.
While it was a small gesture on Kelly's part, it was extremely well-received in the small community.
During a visit to Columbia, my brother and his family drove by Faurot Field.
My nephew, Markham, was
immediately enamored with the stadium and declared that he was going to play football there and he would be a Tiger.
When the Tigers were still struggling to become bowl eligible, my brother relayed this story to Kelly. The point that he impressed upon Mike was that it should be every Missouri kid's dream to play for the flagship university.
On Dec. 7, 2002, Markham was killed in a traffic accident. By far, that was one of the most difficult times for our family.
A few months later, my brother and his family received an invitation to return to a Mizzou football game and be Mike's personal guest in the pressbox.
Upon arrival, Mike explained that he had brought them to Columbia to reveal a new segment to the broadcast halftime slate.
The design of the segment was simple. Kelly picked a senior on the team who was from Missouri. He then conducted the interview and asked what it meant to be a Tiger.
Kelly informed my brother that they were calling the segment: Markham's Missouri Moment.
Last week, my nephew would have turned 23. Had he followed his dream, he would be graduating from Mizzou this spring.
Even though he didn't have that opportunity to put on the jersey, I believe I can call him a Tiger.
The first words of the Tigers Fight song state, "Every true son, so happy hearted, skies above us are blue."
In conversations with Jack Fox, Kelly Curbow and others from the area, who played for Old Mizzou, their pride in representing the state was evident.
Markham wanted to be a true son and represent the University of Missouri and its football team.
Every week, because of the kindness of a true gentleman Markham's dream lives on.
I still tune in to listen to the profile and will forever be a Tiger fan, M-I-Z--Z-O-U.
Jared Lankford is the sports editor of the Cassville Democrat. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at 417-847-2610