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Former Kansas QB legend David Jaynes speaks at emotional John Hadl celebration of life

Kansas City Star 12/17/2022 Gary Bedore, The Kansas City Star

One of the country’s top football recruits his senior year at Bonner Springs High School, quarterback sensation David Jaynes spoke with then-Alabama coaching legend Bear Bryant several times during the recruiting process.

Humbled and honored by interest shown in him by one of the most accomplished coaches of all time, Jaynes nonetheless was actually even more impressed one evening in 1971 when he picked up a ringing house phone and was rendered speechless upon hearing the voice on the other end.

“This is John Hadl, quarterback of the San Diego Chargers,” Jaynes said of the former University of Kansas great who told Jaynes he had a great experience playing at KU and thought the school would be a great fit for Jaynes, one of the greatest prep players in Kansas City-area history.

“Listen, if there’s anything I can do, if I can answer any questions you might have, call me,” Hadl added, asking Jaynes if he had a pen to write down his number.

Jaynes quickly located a crayon he used in art class at Bonner Springs High.

“He gave me his number. I kept the piece of paper. I still have it,” Jaynes added, pausing momentarily to hold back tears on Friday while serving as one of six speakers at a celebration of life for Hadl, attended by several hundred well-wishers, including KU basketball coach Bill Self and KU athletic director Travis Goff, Friday afternoon at Lied Center on KU’s West campus.

Hadl died on Nov. 30 at the age of 82 at Pioneer Ridge Retirement Community in Lawrence.

Jaynes — he did indeed go on to play at KU, picking the Jayhawks over Alabama, Stanford, Miami and many others and emerged as the only Jayhawk in history to date to be a Heisman Trophy finalist — was awed in watching Hadl up close and personal Jaynes’ junior year at Bonner Springs High.

Jaynes was a ball boy for Kansas City Chiefs games and remembers watching Hadl warm up with Hadl’s favorite target — receiver Lance Alworth — one Sunday morning prior to a game between the San Diego Chargers and the Chiefs in KC.

“I said, ‘I wish I could throw the football like John Hadl,’’’ Jaynes recalled Friday, adding that he said the same thing watching Hadl “three to four weeks later on television.”

“Coach Self said it best. He said, ‘John was a cool guy,’” Jaynes added. “He loved being around other people. It has been an honor to know him. He loved KU and Lawrence. I’m thankful and honored to say he was a friend.”

Hadl — a football star at both Lawrence High and then KU (Hadl, Gale Sayers and Ray Evans are the only three football players to have their number retired at KU) — was the first KU football player to be picked twice for All-America honors (1960, ‘61). He is an inductee in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Hadl, who played 16 seasons professionally, most with the Chargers, still is being mentioned as a possible candidate for induction in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his throwing for 33,503 yards, 244 touchdowns (and 268 interceptions). At the time of his retirement Hadl ranked third all-time in passing yards. As an interesting tidbit, Hadl never missed a start because of injury during his 16-year AFL/NFL career.

Pack St. Clair, a former KU football teammate of Hadl, during his speech on Friday, said Lawrence resident Tom Black “is doing a great job” of keeping Hadl’s name in front of those individuals who consider players for induction in the Pro Football Hall.

“He is a true hero, a true legend,” St. Clair said of Hadl.

One of Hadl’s closest friends dating back to childhood, Larry Hatfield, who played football, baseball and basketball with Hadl in youth leagues and at Lawrence High, read the names of several individuals in the Lied Center because “John wanted me to mention his friends.”

“We would call Lance (Alworth) with some frequency the last three years. He always answered, ‘Hadl I’m open. Throw me the ball,’’’ Hatfield said, growing emotional upon telling that story.

“Remember John fondly,” Hatfield told the attendees on Friday, “because he remembers you.”

Speaker Pat Henderson worked with Hadl as a fundraiser many years in KU’s Williams Fund.

“He had the kind of career you name babies, streets and (race)horses after. He was such a rock,” Henderson said, adding that Hadl “was a fundraising machine. You couldn’t say no to John he was so likeable, so humble.”

One of KU’s biggest donors, Dana Anderson, recalled in his speech about winning a member/guest golf tournament in California with Hadl as his partner one summer. He still has the prize that was given to the winning duo.

Anderson became emotional when discussing the loving care shown to Hadl the past few years by Hadl family members.

“Di ... I am inspired by her,” Anderson said of Hadl’s wife Diana.

Perhaps Henderson said it best: “KU letter winners like to say: ‘Once a Jayhawk, always a Jayhawk.’ Nobody lived that better than John.”

John Tacha provided the welcome and introductions at the memorial service. Two of Hadl’s favorite songs — Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” and Johnny Mathis’ “The Twelfth of Never” — were performed by Barbara Ballard while Curtis Marsh concluded the hour-long service by playing KU’s alma mater on trumpet.

Honorary pallbearers were: Lance Alworth, Tom Black, Larry Hatfield, Joe Namath, Pack St. Clair and John Tacha.

Hadl was preceded in death by his parents. He is survived by his wife, Diana Hadl; son, John W. Hadl, II; daughter, Jacqueline Julie Hadl-Fromm; three grandchildren, Marti Fromm, Julie Fromm, and Edward Fromm; and sister Julie Carole Hadl and many cousins.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials in John’s name to the John Hadl Football Legacy Fund, c/o KU Endowment, P.O. Box 928, Lawrence, KS 66044, or may be sent in care of Warren-McElwain Mortuary, 120 W. 13th Street, Lawrence, KS 66044.

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