Throwback Thursday: Fred Elder

Oct. 14, 2010

Fred Elder (Football, 1962-64)

The first Academic All-American in Kansas football history under Jack Mitchell. Elder is a Wichita native who played tackle for the Jayhawks from 1962-64. He finished his career with a degree in engineering from KU and received his master’s degree from Wichita State University and his PhD from the University of Wisconsin, where he is currently teaching. Elder has two son’s who graduated from KU and currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin.

What have you been doing since you graduated?

“Since I have graduated from the University of Kansas I have had two sons. They both are successful KU graduates in the financial services industry. I have received a master’s degree from Wichita State University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I have had my own consulting engineering firm since 1982 and I have been teaching at the university level since 1968. I have taught for Wichita State and I am currently teaching at University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

What inspired to you start playing football?

“I guess more than anything it was a goal that I wanted to achieve. In a little more of a vernacular way it was a mountain I wanted to climb. It was a simply matter of a personal achievement that I wanted to take on.”

How often to you come back to KU?

“The last time I was back on campus was when we beat Nebraska (in 2007). I get to (the state of) Kansas more often then I get on campus.”

What led you to choosing KU?

“I was a senior at Wichita East and I had come home from wrestling practice one night and was tired and hungry. Well, my mother says to me guess who was just here today. I tell her I don’t know the postman or something equally wise and she says Jack and Jean. I explain to her that I have no clue who Jack and Jean are and she says Coach Mitchell and his wife. She said that they were in the area and just stopped by for coffee and cookies and I think that you should go to school there. Another reason why I chose KU was because of Coach Mitchell. He was a fabulous recruiter and he knew immediately what to say around you whether it was a joke or about his Sunday school. He was a classic salesman and a wonderful coach!”

What was your favorite memory from KU?

“There were a lot of great memories that I had from KU. I was an Alpha Tau Omega and I enjoyed my time with the people in the fraternity. I also enjoyed my time in the engineering program and my association and friends there. The best moment playing football was when we beat Oklahoma in 1964 when Gale Sayers ran the opening kickoff back and we scored on the last play of the game.”

Growing up, who/what inspired you to play football?

“It was self motivation and it was something that I aspired and wanted to succeed in.”

Do you still keep in contact with some of your former coaches/teammates?

“I send Christmas cards to Coach Fambrough and Bobby Robinson who lives in the Wichita area.”

You’re coming back for the KU-K-State Game, what has that rivalry meant to you when you played and now as you watch?

“It has always been a huge game and a big in-state rivalry. One always wanted to get up for those games so you could do well.”

There have been some renovation to and buildings added to Memorial Stadium have you seen the new changes?

“Yes! I have seen them and it is always nice when the physical facilities improve. It was nice that people stepped forward and helped get the new facilities put together financially.”

You were the first Academic All- American in KU football history. How does it make you feel that you were the first person to earn such a prestigious award and pave the way for other Jayhawk student-athletes?

“It makes me feel really good and makes me feel very indebted to Don Pierce, the football sports information football director at that time. He was a very highly competent person and I am sure in some significant measure that I owe that recognition to Don Pierce. He did his job well and it makes me feel good that he felt like I was the person to be picked for that first award. It also makes me feel good that I have started a path that other highly successful young people have followed. “