Former Mizzou football head coach battles with Alzheimer's
COLUMBIA – A former University of Missouri head football coach is fighting an off-the-field opponent far greater than any he faced on the field: Alzheimer's.
Warren Powers was in charge years before Barry Odom was head coach, Powers took over job in 1978 and coached until 1984.
Before coming to Mizzou, he played college football at Nebraska and then professionally with the Oakland Raiders.
His wife, Linda Powers, said they were wonderful memories.
"We were very fortunate,” she said.
While coach, Warren Powers famously lead the Tigers to a victory over then No. 2 Nebraska and four straight bowl appearances.
He didn’t just care about the game of football, however. He cared about his players and the well-being of their careers after they left the gridiron for the final time.
“It was a tremendous relationship and we’ve continued it over the years,” former Mizzou football player Howard Richards said.
Eight years ago, Powers’ life began to slowly change.
“It goes back to 2009, when I first realized something was wrong with Warren,” Linda Powers said..
Warren Powers was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and officially went public with his diagnosis in 2015.
His wife said, “It’s very difficult to explain to people. But it took me two years to convince a doctor that this was more than just aging. They diagnosed him with as having mild dementia and fearful of early onset of Alzheimer's."
One in nine people over the age of 65 will be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Warren Powers' diagnosis shocked some of his former players.
“It was so sad because this guy had given so much of himself to working with young men on the football field and done such a great job, to be suffering with a disease that has no cure,” Richards said.
Earlier this year, he was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.
“I’ve got to pinch myself and make sure it’s a reality,” he said.
While he struggles with his memories, there are reminders everywhere. Players have gifted him with memorabilia and other gifts to honor those days.
Richards said, “There’s been so many years removed since he’s been the head coach. But to have guys that still look at him and revere him, not only as a wonderful person but a really good football coach and someone that really kind of changed the course of Missouri football.”
As Powers continues to fight for the rest of his life, he will continue to inspire those he comes across everyday.