Hundreds Gather at Fambrough's Memorial Service
Sept. 9, 2011
LAWRENCE, Kan. – An overflowing crowd of former players, coaches, staff, administrators, fans and friends packed into the First Christian Church near downtown Lawrence Friday afternoon for the memorial service for former Kansas football coach Don Fambrough. A beloved Jayhawk who guided KU for eight seasons, Fambrough died on Sept. 3, after a fall near his residence in Lawrence.
Former All-American quarterback David Jaynes, who traveled from Los Angeles to pay his respects, spoke eloquently about his relationship with Fambrough – a relationship that only strengthened with time. “Of all the honors and recognitions I’ve received over the years,” he said, “being asked to speak here today is the highest honor I’ve ever received. Period.”
David Lawrence, a captain on Fambrough’s 1981 team, remembered his coach for how he treated his players. “One time I was asked why Fam was so popular among alumni and virtually all of his former players,” Lawrence said. “I thought about it for a while and told him it was because he treated them like they were his sons. Not just during their careers as student-athletes, but throughout their entire lives. He did this consistently for 60 years. As we all get older we forget about the details of games and records, but we never forget about how we are treated.”
How Fambrough treated others became a theme at Friday’s service. Tracee Hamilton, now a sports columnist for the Washington Post, spoke about how Fambrough helped her on the road to a career in journalism. “I was a reporter with the University Daily Kansan in 1981,” Hamilton said. “After KU’s game at Tulsa, the administration there would not allow me into the post-game press conference. I was distraught at not being able to do my job. As the team prepared to leave the stadium, Coach Fambrough stopped to ask me what was wrong. When I told him, he promptly pulled two players off the bus so I could interview them.
“We struck up a friendship after that,” Hamilton continued. “I went to practice every day, and I think he respected that. We were kind of kindred spirits. We both loved KU, and I enjoyed listening to him tell stories; no one could tell stories like he could! I was very fond of him.”
Lawrence said few have been able to recruit the University of Kansas as well as Fambrough. “When J.V. Sikes first hired Fambrough at Kansas, he told Fam to spend as much time as possible with head basketball coach Phog Allen,” Lawrence said. “Phog taught Fam the importance of recruiting the mommas of the recruits because he thought the mothers would have the greatest influence on their sons’ decision about where to go to school. Fam had another thing in common with Phog Allen. They both felt that the University of Kansas was without a doubt the best place to go to school. Recruits could see their sincerity because both coaches graduated from KU.”
“Just two weeks ago Fam was in his chair with his dog Bo by his side,” Lawrence continued. “He began to reflect and said, `You know, David, I must be the luckiest man alive. I have two great sons that I love and I am so proud of; I have wonderful grandchildren and even a great grandbaby. I got to spend most of my whole life playing for, coaching, and being a part of the greatest University in the country that I love so much, and I got to be married for almost 60 years to the only woman that I ever loved. Nobody deserves all of that.'”
Hundreds of former players and thousands of fans would disagree with that last sentence.