Before he was a member of the Kansas City Chiefs player personnel and scouting department, working as the pro personnel scouting assistant for the past four years, Randy Ball spent time coaching at both the high school and collegiate levels.
Ball has made his life's work about football ever since he graduated from Columbia (Mo.) Hickman High School back in 1969. He played collegiately at Northeast Missouri State (now known as Truman State) from 1969-72 and was a part of three league championship teams, and he was a two-time All-Conference offensive guard and captain.
When his playing days were over, Ball began a coaching career that has spanned almost five decades, and the success he's had is why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame decided to induct him into the Hall of Fame this year, with a ceremony Monday afternoon in Springfield, Missouri.
Former Missouri Tigers quarterback Corby Jones, longtime Seneca High School football coach Tom Hodge and the ultra-successful Camdenton High School football program, join Ball as new inductees this year.
"To get an honor like that, it was a great surprise," Ball explained. "It's really something that was extremely humbling. It's honestly kind of hard to talk about. I'm just really appreciative of the people who nominated me and the people who voted for me, and all of the people who have been a big part of my life to help me achieve that goal."
For Ball, that starts with his family.
"It starts with my parents," Ball explained. "My parents were great people and gave me the work ethic I needed and taught me how to treat other people and how to get along with people—to respect people. My dad always had a saying, 'I can, I will,' which was to say you can overcome any kind of obstacle."
Like most football men, Ball also said none of this could have been accomplished without the support he had at home.
"I would be remiss if I didn't mention the sacrifices my wife of 42 years, Sandi, and my children, Andy and Kati, made by sharing their husband and father with 90 to 100 players each year of their life," Ball added. "A coach's wife more or less raises the kids while her husband is always out helping someone else's kids."
Ball spent four years as a high school coach before coaching stints at Missouri Western (1977), Illinois State (1978-80) and his alma mater, Truman State (1982). He then left to take an assistant coaching job at Western Illinois at the end of the '82 season, and he'd spend the next 17 years in Macomb, Illinois, first as an assistant and later as head coach.
Ball was named the head coach of the Western Illinois program in 1990, and over the next nine years (1990-98), he led the Leathernecks program to a 64-41-1 record. That total ranked him first at Western Illinois in total wins and sixth in winning percentage (60.8 percent).
Here's more information from the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame website on Ball's time at Western Illinois:
*"With Ball at the helm there, the Fighting Leathernecks (of Western Illinois) won their first I-AA postseason victory (1997), enjoyed their first 11-win season (1997) and reached their first national semifinals appearance. [Ball] was also part of three Gateway Conference Championships, now the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The first was in 1988 as an assistant and the next two were in 1997 and 1998 (as head coach). His 51 career league wins in the Valley as head coach at Western Illinois and (later) at Missouri State (head coach from 1999 to 2005) stand among the league's best. *
"Ball was the 1997 Eddie Robinson Award finalist for the National Coach of the Year in addition to being named the Bruce Craddock Award recipient and Gateway Conference Coach of the Year. After leading the Leathernecks to their second outright conference title in school history in 1998 with a 6-0 record, Ball was named the American Football Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year. The 1998 team led the nation in holding opponents to only 9.4 points per game."
Ball credits his coaching success to those he played for and learned under—guys like his junior high school coach, Tom Travis, his high school coach, Bob Roark, and particularly his head coach at Truman State, Russ Sloan.
"[Sloan] was extremely hard on you and ran a very disciplined program," Ball recalled. "I owe everything to him and the coaches he had working for him."
A few of those coaches that Ball credits were Chuck Shelton, Ron Toman, Tony Yellovich and Bruce Craddock.
"There's an honor in the Gateway Conference, which is now Missouri Valley," Ball explained. "It's called the Bruce Craddock Award, which goes to the Coach of the Year. That just goes to show you what kind of coach he was.
"I had been very blessed to have some great coaches, some great people in my life, but most importantly, I've been so, so blessed to have players who played for me that were dedicated and hard-working guys that understood what it took to be successful."
With a handful of players who went on to the NFL and even played in a few Super Bowls, the name that jumped out to Ball when reflecting on his career wasn't the most successful player to ever play for him.
"I had a guy that played for me for four years and only got in the game in mop up situations named Tom Veil," Ball recalled. "And you say, 'Who is a guy you most respected that you've ever been around? It would probably be Tom Veil—just because of his work ethic and dedication to go through all of that.
"He had a true love of the game of football and it was enjoyable to see that."
It's the kind of answer that shows you everything you need to know about why Ball is entering the Hall of Fame. It was a chance to beat his chest and brag about the most recognizable NFL player he's ever work with, but instead, Ball mentioned the football-loving backup who gave his all for just a handful of snaps when games were already clearly decided.
Ball's love of the game has taken him and his family all over the Midwest, and now all of that time and effort is being recognized, as he's one of the newest members of the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
"It's an achievement for work over a long period of time—never expecting for it to be the ultimate goal," Ball explained. "But it's so nice to be recognized by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and people who do that for a living.
"It's a really cool honor and means a lot to me, and I know it will mean a lot to my family as well."