Born: August 1, 1933
Fred Merrell coached 46 years at various stops throughout the state, including Blue Springs and West Plains high schools. As a head coach for 41 of those years, he compiled a 216-177-12 record, including 28 winning seasons.
Merrell explained the origins of his journey this way:
“From a boy, by third grade, who had a dream of being a football coach; parents who gave their love, support and encouragement to see that dream come true,” Merrell tells us. “A Christian home that taught respect for our fellow man (especially toward women and the elderly), be in church when the doors were open, and where I learned in Sunday school that Jesus Christ would live in your heart – if you just asked Him.”
He went on.
“You were disciplined at home if you were in trouble at school. Sandlot football (helped you) learn the old-fashioned way (experience and decision-making on your own). Dad provided the two or three footballs a year that were worn out kicking on the blacktop just about every day.”
Merrell graduated in 1951 from Paseo High School in Kansas City, where he was a running back, linebacker, punter and would drop-kick the football for extra points.
He later earned four letters each in football and baseball and a degree from William Jewell College. He drop-kicked a 51-yard field goal to set an NAIA record in 1952.
After two years in the Army, Merrell set out on quite a career.
In seven years at West Plains, where he served as athletic director and coached football and track, he helped build the football stadium and track in 1972 and 1973.
In 14 years at Blue Springs, he served as athletic director and coached football, track and field and golf. In 1976, he helped develop the new football stadium.
Attention to detail was always a top priority for Merrell, who earned a master’s degree from Truman State University in 1962 and an education specialist degree from Missouri-Kansas City in 1976.
Merrell’s teams won seven conference championships, nine district championships and reached three state quarterfinals and semifinals.
He was named a Coach of the Year nine times, the “Cecil Patterson” Kansas City Coach of the Year in 1983 and inducted into the Missouri High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame a decade later.
Other coaching stops included Liberty High School and Middle School, Monroe City, Shawnee Mission South in Kansas and St. Mary’s of Independence before assisting at Truman State University and Pleasant Lea Middle School.
In 1969, he received the Citizen of the Year award in West Plains, where he had become active in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a high school huddle sponsor.
After retirement, he volunteered at the Kansas City FCA and was presented the Special Appreciation Award of the Year in 2004. Five years later, he received the Martin Luther King Jr. award for Outstanding Public Service.