Rick Vernon was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and couldn't believe it was happening.

Rick Vernon didn’t recognize the number appearing on his cell phone screen, so he didn’t answer it.

When they left a message, he didn’t bother to listen to it.

“I figured it was a telemarketer,” Vernon said.

Finally, while assembling some furniture at his home, Vernon’s phone rang again and his wife Cheryl said, “It’s that number again.”

Vernon said, “Go ahead and answer it or they are just going to keep calling.”

When the caller identified himself as being with the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame, Vernon initially thought it was a prank phone call.

Reassured it wasn’t, Vernon was speechless when he learned he would be inducted this year into the Missouri Hall of Fame, along with former University of Missouri quarterback Brad Smith and Missouri State University coach Jesse Branch.

“I never even dared to dream of being in the Hall of Fame,” Vernon said.

On Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, with his wife Cheryl at his side, Vernon will join the likes of Albert Fred “Red” Schoendienst, Stan Musial and a host of individuals Vernon has admired for decades.  

Vernon coached for more than three decades and was 222-169 overall – that’s 25th-best in state history, according to the Hall of Fame. Vernon got his start as an assistant coach at Odessa, became head coach at Lone Jack High School and then served as the head coach for 33 years at Waynesville High School, where his 2007 team won the Class 5 state title. Vernon guided the Tigers to seven district titles and five Mid Missouri Conference championships and two Ozark Conference championships. He was inducted into the Missouri Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2006 and was named Missouri Coach of the Year in 2008. Along the way, Vernon sent three players on to the National Football League: L.J. Fort, Gijon Robinson and C.J. Mosley.

Humble to a fault, Vernon says this award is “a combination of a lot of people coming together,” he said. “This could never have happened without so many people – Cheryl, the boys, my extended family of players and their families, my fellow teachers, my coaches in high school and college, my fellow coaches, principals, the community. So many people made this possible. It’s not for me as a person; this honor is for all of us.”

When asked about his coaching style and the secret to his success, Vernon simply says, “It’s all about the team.”  

When pushed for insight into his coaching style, Vernon reflects on his own high school and college coaches, “I had coaches who had totally different styles and I took a little from each of them. I am a combination of what others instilled in me.”   

While he deflects personal praise, he heaps it on Waynesville, St. Robert and Fort Leonard Wood for “coming together to make this one of the best school districts in the State of Missouri,” Vernon said. “I’m so proud that we have three communities coming together as one Tiger. The camaraderie between the community and the military makes this a great place to work and raise a family.”   

Because he feels he is accepting the award on behalf of his beloved community, Vernon is especially grateful that he finally answered the call. It turned out that the day he was assembling furniture was the final day he could accept the nomination into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.