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As a player and young coach in Ohio, Gary Pinkel didn't think he'd be honored as a Missouri Sports Legend one day.

But sure enough, the longtime MU football coach who won 118 games in 14 seasons leading the Tigers was bestowed that award this weekend by the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

With a bronze-casted bust unveiled of him that will sit on display in the Hall, Pinkel, plus 16 other nominees, were ushered in as the Class of 2019 Sunday afternoon at the Holiday Inn Executive Center in Columbia.

It's another achievement in the storied career of the winningest coach in MU football history. Already nominated into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2016, his bust will sit alongside busts of fellow Missouri athletic greats such as Stan Musial, Norm Stewart and Ozzie Smith in the Hall's Legends Walkway.

But Pinkel, while grateful for the honor, continually stated that the award was not about just him. He gave more credit to the people that gave him opportunities and helped him along the way.

"It's not (about) Gary Pinkel," Pinkel said. "It's about everybody pulling and pulling on the rope in the right direction. Mike Alden (MU athletic director from 1998-2015) ... I believed in him and I came (to MU) for that reason, or I wouldn't have ever come. I've lived here 20 years now, so this is the longest place I've ever lived in my life. I'll be here forever."

Since Pinkel retired from coaching in 2015, he's still stayed active in mid-Missouri. He founded the GP Make A Difference Everyday Foundation earlier this year, a non-for-profit organization providing support and research for children affected by cancer and physical disabilities.

Pinkel, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2015, said that the ability to use his influence as a former MU football coach for a good cause brings him plenty of joy.

"We really want to help kids, that's what we're trying to do," Pinkel said of his foundation. "Me being the ex-football coach at Mizzou hopefully earns credibility doing that. It's allowed us to really build up this foundation. I'm using it to try to help, and that's kind of what my goals are."

Pinkel wasn't the only nominee with MU football ties. Jeremy Maclin, a two-time all-American and the Tigers' all-time leader in all-purpose yardage, was also back in his college town this weekend to be enshrined.

The now-retired wide receiver, who played on three NFL teams and amassed 6,835 yards and 49 touchdowns receiving, now works as an assistant football coach at his alma mater, Kirkwood High School. Maclin sees his enshrinement as a moment of pride for him as well as an opportunity to catch back up with Pinkel, his coach at MU.

"You go back and you look at some of the names that are in the Missouri Hall of Fame, it's pretty cool to be mentioned in some of the same categories," Maclin said. "(Coach Pinkel) accepted me into that family and led me in the right direction. I consider him a friend, a role model and a mentor. He's definitely played a huge part in my success, and that's what makes today so much more special."

This article originally ran on columbiamissourian.com.

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