By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Without Rick Borgard’s knee injury midway through his high school football season and Sharon Fees’ change of mind before entering college, the Missouri Southern blood that runs predominantly through their family may have never started pumping.
They met shortly after arriving on campus in August 1979 as freshman athletes, got married two years later, and three of their five children also competed for the Lions — twin daughters Shannan and Stacy ran track and son Brian played football.
“What an honor it was to follow my parents’ legacy at Southern,” Shannan said. “I was proud of what they had done. I knew they handed down their athletics to me, and I wanted to be able to continue that. A love of sports, being able to compete at the college level is something I took pride in. … Missouri Southern financially was a great decision, athletically was a great decision.”
“Anyone asks me where I went to school, I say where my parents went,” Brian said. “We have five people who attended school there and played sports there. It’s nice to have it in the family and keep talking about Missouri Southern. They always knew what was going on through one of us. It’s pretty neat.”
“We liked it there. It was special to us,” Sharon said. “To go back and see them on the same campus and in the same sports programs … we were excited to see the new facilities and how much more had been added to the campus.”
Coming to Southern
Rick Borgard, who prepped at Bishop DuBourg in south St. Louis, was headed to the University of Missouri to play football and baseball, but a knee injury in the sixth game of his senior football season altered those plans.
“I talked to seven different colleges,” he said. “Missouri Southern came (on a recruiting visit) in the snow. I really thought that was nice. They said I would have a chance to play as a freshman. I went down for a visit, loved the area, loved the field. And the chance to play as a freshman, that was great.”
He did play for the Lions as a freshman. In fact, he played fullback for four years, blocking for the likes of Harold Noirfalise.
“There were a lot of great athletes in the late ’70s and early ’80s,” Rick said. “As a (blocking) fullback, Coach (Jim) Frazier would have Harold run the ball 30 to 35 times a game. From then to what the game has changed to now …”
Sharon Fees, a graduate of Republic High School, was planning to go Westark Junior College in Harrison, Ark., on a volleyball scholarship.
“My brother, Louis Fees, was at Missouri Southern,” she said. “I changed plans and decided to go there and see if I could run track there.
“I went a week before (school started) to see if I could walk on the volleyball team. That’s when I met Rick. He was there for two-a-days in football. He was a pretty nice guy. I’m glad it worked out. He’s been a great husband and father and leader for our family.”
Sharon ended up playing volleyball one year and running track two years for the Lions.
“Mom ran the 400 and the 4x400 (relay),” Shannan said. “That’s definitely where I got my speed. She was also a pretty talented volleyball player from what I hear.”
The children’s paths
The Borgards’ two older children went to other colleges. Chris played football — also a fullback — at Arkansas State, and Courtney attended Missouri State.
The twins played basketball on Ozark’s state championship team in 2005 but they chose track over basketball for college. Stacy, a sprinter, and Shannan, a middle distance runner, both looked at Emporia State, and Shannon also looked at Kansas.
“She was going to Emporia, I was planning to go to Missouri Southern,” Stacy said. “The last couple of months, she decided she was going to Southern. It surprised us both.
“It (family legacy) didn’t really settle in until we walked on campus. Dad was walking across the football field, reminiscing. Mom was reminiscing on the track. It was a special moment for us all. Hey, let’s carry on this tradition.”
The twins’ coach at Missouri Southern was Patty Vavra, who was Sharon’s teammate two decades earlier.
“A fun thing was Patty Vavra ran with my wife, so they were friends,” Rick said. “Sallie Beard was Sharon’s coach. It’s fortunate for our girls to be able to have that bond with the same two coaches that we hung around with.”
Brian Borgard also decided to go to Missouri State before choosing the Lions. He arrived on the MSSU campus in 2009 — his sisters’ senior year — and was the Lions’ long snapper for four years. He also played fullback — obviously also in the family bloodlines — in goal-line and short-yardage situations.
“I wanted to play where Dad played football and Mom ran track here as well,” Brian said. “My sisters were running track here as well. I thought it would be a good fit … not too far from home but not too close at the same time.
“I’m glad I came and followed his footsteps. You always wish for a couple more wins, but I would not change it if I had the opportunity.”
While the parents were thrilled when their children chose Missouri Southern, they did not apply any recruiting pressure.
“They didn’t push us to go, but when we did, they were pretty excited about it,” Stacy said. “One thing I appreciate is they never pushed us into anything.”
“They wanted to be more local. I really think that’s the main thing,” Sharon said. “We are a close-knit family, and they knew if they went to Emporia, we wouldn’t see much of them and it would be harder for them to get home. I’m glad it worked out this way.
“I want to give credit to the Lord. He’s really the one who brought us through. It hasn’t been trouble-free, but He has cared for us and helped the kids through college. The talent came from Him to do anything that was accomplished.”