Sept. 27, 2005- Former Truman football coach and current Missouri Southern head coach John Ware passed away this morning in Joplin, Mo. at the age of 46.


Ware came to Kirksville in 1985 as a graduate assistant and became a full-time assistant coach in 1986. He took over as head coach of the Bulldogs in 1995 and led the program until departing for Missouri Southern after the 2003 season.


Ware’s nine years as head coach of Truman tied him for the third-longest tenure in the school’s football history. He won 54 games while at Truman, the third most among Bulldog football coaches.

John Ware's Bio:

John Ware was in his second year as head football coach at Missouri Southern State University when he passed away Tuesday (Sept. 27). The eighth head football coach in Lions history, he came to Southern after a 19-year tenure at Truman State University, including nine seasons as head coach. Ware won more than 60 percent of his conference games while at Truman, an institution widely considered one of the toughest for which to recruit.

Faced with limited numbers on the roster when he arrived in 2004, the Lions were unable to field a complete team in spring ball that year. But he and the new staff brought in 50-plus newcomers and redshirted more than 80 percent of that new group. In his first season with Missouri Southern, Ware's Lions improved by four games from the prior year, finishing with a 5-6 ledger, including 4-5 in the MIAA.

Ware, who also coached the MSSU offensive line, began as head coach at Truman in 1995, posting a 54-44 (.551) overall record, despite eight games against NCAA Division I-AA foes. In the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association, his Bulldog squads went 49-32 (.605) with victories over many of the league's elite. With seven winning seasons as head coach, Ware finished his Truman career ranked third on the school's all-time victories list and 12th in the all-time MIAA chart. He was the second-longest tenured coach in TSU history, tied with the legendary Don Faurot, and led the Bulldogs to six winning ledgers in conference play.

His career record, after a 5-6 season in 2004 and a 2-3 start to the 2005 campaign, was 61-53. He continued to rank 12th on the all-time MIAA victories list at the time of his passing. All told, he won more than 58 percent of his MIAA games, posting a mark of 54-39 (.581).

Ware began at Truman in 1985 as a graduate assistant coach and he moved up to full-time status in 1986. He had served as offensive line coach for the team since 1987. Truman had 12 winning seasons during his tenure, posting an 85-53 record with three NCAA Division II postseason appearances.

Ware had the distinction of serving as head coach for the 1996 Harlon Hill Trophy winner, running back Jarrett Anderson, who led the nation in both rushing and scoring. Ware's offensive line paved the way for Anderson, who racked up an NCAA-II record-setting 2,140 yards.

He coached five All-America offensive linemen during his career, recruited three first-team All-America athletes and mentored more than 30 all-conference performers.

Prior to joining the Truman staff, Ware served as line coach and strength & conditioning coach for one season at Ottumwa High School, where he was an all-state lineman during his prep career.

Ware earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1981 from Drake University, where he was an All-America offensive lineman. Also an academic All-America performer on the gridiron, he earned a master's degree in 1987, also in psychology, from Truman. He is also a certified strength & conditioning specialist and a member of the National Strength Coaches Association.

At the conclusion of his collegiate playing career, he participated in the 1981 Blue-Gray All-Star Classic. He later signed with the NFL's San Francisco 49ers and played in four exhibition games before being cut.

In addition to his coaching duties, Ware also served as strength & conditioning coordinator during his stay at Truman. He was a five-time U.S. Senior National Powerlifting champion and was the 1989 world record holder, lifting a total of 2,427 pounds. Ware also was the 1991 world powerlifting champion. His best lifts in the three powerlifting events were 1,000 pounds in the squat, 630 pounds in the bench press and 840 pounds in the deadlift.

He leaves behind a wife, the former Melissa Thomas, who previously worked as athletics media relations director at Truman.


Statements from the Truman Athletics Department:


Truman Director of Athletics Jerry Wollmering:

“We send our deepest sympathy to Melissa and the entire Ware family. John and Melissa spent many years as part of the Truman family and we will never forget their years of service to us.  Coach Ware was a great person on and off the field and he will be missed by student-athletes and fellow coaches.”


Truman Head Football Coach Shannon Currier:

“It is a sad day for football, especially for the Missouri Southern and Truman football families. No one has given more to the Truman football program than John Ware as he spent nearly 20 years coaching at the school. He had a positive impact on the lives of hundreds of Bulldog football players, including many of our current players and coaches. Even though he was coaching at Missouri Southern the last two seasons, I could tell from talking with him that in his heart, he was also still a Bulldog.”


Press Release from the Missouri Southern Sports Information Office:


John Ware, head football coach at Missouri Southern State University, died today (Sept. 27) at the age of 46.


Ware, who was in his second year as head coach at Missouri Southern, collapsed in his office at around 10 a.m. this morning of an apparent heart attack. Attempts to revive the coach by medical personnel and those first on the scene *  the coaching staff and MSSU training staff * failed. He was rushed by ambulance to Freeman Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead.


An autopsy is scheduled for Wednesday in Springfield, Mo., and funeral arrangements, which will be made available as soon as they are known, are pending.


"John Ware was a man with a vision, and that vision was beginning to become clear to our community and our campus," Beard said. "It was almost palpable, the impact that he had in just a short period of time."


"Like all of the guys, I'm grieving, but I'm also grieving the loss of one of my best friends *  if not my best friend," said Keeth Matheny, the Lions' offensive coordinator and assistant head coach, who will take over the program for the remainder of the year.


"John was one of those guys that made you feel better after you talked to him," Matheny said. "He was as even-keeled as they come and he was as visionary as they come. Nothing deterred him from our team was headed. He was the center-board of this program and we would not be blown off course.


"There are five games remaining * five opportunities * to make a great man proud."


After the Lions finished 1-10 in 2003, Ware became the eighth head coach in MSSU history in December of that year. His spring roster in 2004 didn't even include enough players to stage a spring football game, but he led the Lions to a 5-6 record in the 2004 campaign despite a roster that was more than half comprised of freshmen. His squad remained in the hunt for a Mineral Water Bowl berth until the last week of the season and he was named national coach of the year by


This season, the Lions have a 2-3 record with losses to Pittsburg State, currently ranked No. 4 in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll, Northwest Missouri State, currently ranked No. 7 and to Harding (Ark.), which sits just outside the AFCA Top 25.


Beard said Ware wanted his players to be more than football players.


"John Ware loved the game of football, but that was merely a vehicle for him to have an impact on young men," Beard said. "I don't know of very many head coaches who would have had their players out at busy intersections, on a game day and a game day with (MSSU's border rival) Pittsburg State, collecting donations for Hurrcane Katrina relief. But John Ware did."


Ware joined the Lions after 19 years (1985-2003) at Truman State University, including nine years (1995-2003) as head coach. He was 54-44 during his head coaching tenure at Truman and he won more than 60 percent of his Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association games.


Ironically, Missouri Southern and Truman are scheduled to play Saturday (Oct. 1) in MSSU's homecoming game. That contest will be played as scheduled, with a special recogition of coach Ware planned prior to the 2 p.m. kickoff.


The Lions will also wear a patch on their helmets depicting the coach's initials and a "1%" insignia, which will serve as a reminder of coach Ware's belief that a team improve one percent every day to be successful.


"The players loved him," Matheny said. "There are hundreds of players and coaches that knew him and loved him and interacted with him on a regular basis. A week did not go by in our office when there was not a former John Ware football player coming by to talk to him and to thank him. He is one of the rare men that I have met and that our team has interacted with.


Southern football players, after a tumultuous morning and an afternoon of meetings, were visibly shaken.


"To lose a coach to a coaching change hurts," said senior linebacker Atiba Bradley. "But to lose a coach to death ... it hurts that much more.


"I think for all of these last five games, everybody from the seniors down to the freshmen are ready to play hard and go after it."


"When I first came here the program was kind of down," said senior wide receiver Dustin Bromley. "I think when he came in ... he just brought a whole different aspect to the game, having the feeling and having the confidence that you can win every game."


Jason Stumbo, MSSU's senior center, said he talked to Ware, who was also Stumbo's position coach, every day.


"Not a day went by that I didn't go in and talk to coach Ware in his office," said Stumbo. "He's a great coach and a great position coach. He taught me more than just things I can use on a football field. He taught me stuff that I can use later in life.


Press Release from the MIAA:


The MIAA was rocked by the news of the sudden passing of John Ware, head football coach at Missouri Southern, Tuesday morning (Sept. 27). He was 46.


Ware was in his second season as head coach of the Lions, and before that had been head coach at Truman from 1995 to 2003. He was an assistant for the Bulldogs for the 10 previous seasons -- eight as offensive line coach. He also was Truman's strength and conditioning coach.


Ware was the Bulldogs' head coach when Jarrett Anderson won the 1996 Harlon Hill Award as NCAA Division II Player of the Year.


He posted a 61-53 (.535) record in his 10-plus seasons as a collegiate football coach -- the 61 victories put him 12th on the MIAA's all-time victories list. Ware was the first man to coach football at two different MIAA schools.


Ware was a competitive powerlifter in the late '80s and early '90s, winning the world championship in 1991 and five U.S. Senior National Powerlifting titles.


The Ottumwa, Iowa, native graduated in 1981 from Drake (Iowa) University with a bachelor's degree in psychology and earned a master's in psychology from Truman in 1987.


During his playing career as an offensive lineman at DU, he earned All-America and Academic All-America honors. He played in the Blue-Gray All-Star Classic following his senior season, and signed as a free agent with the San Francisco 49ers in 1982. He played four exhibition games with the 49ers before being released.


He leaves a wife, Melissa, who served as athletics media relations director at Truman during her husband's tenure at the school.


"John Ware was a man who personified the attributes of his schools' mascots -- he had the heart and ferocity of a Lion and the tenacity and loyalty of a Bulldog," MIAA commissioner Ralph McFillen said. "He loved his family, football, his players and life -- there are few who could measure up to him."


Southern (2-3, 1-2 MIAA) and Truman (1-4, 0-3 MIAA) will play as scheduled Saturday (Oct. 1) in Joplin, and MSSU Homecoming activities will go as planned. Assistant head coach Keeth Matheny will be in charge of the Lions. Services had yet to be announced as of 6 p.m. Tuesday.