Persistence and hard work paid off for Joel Tupper as he worked his way up from a walk on to a starter and eventually E.O. Humphrey award winner at Missouri Southern State University.
Tupper’s early introduction to sports came as a participant in the Joplin Family Y football and basketball programs. At East Junior High he lettered in football, basketball and track.
While attending Parkwood High School, Tupper lettered in football, wrestling and baseball. During his senior year, he qualified for the Missouri State Championship in wrestling.
Following graduation Tupper chose to attend Missouri Southern State University. With no athletic scholarship in hand, he walked on as a football player. Not even allowed to dress out, he spent the first football game at Southern sitting in the stands with his parents because he was so low on the team’s depth chart. By the end of the season and after making substantial progress, Tupper was moved to back-up position at tight end and offensive tackle.
By his sophomore season he was moved to starting weak side tackle and started at the position during his junior season. After the second game of the season as a junior, Tupper was moved to the center position. At the conclusion of the year he was awarded All Central State Intercollegiate Conference honors and selected to the Academic All American team for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). Additional awards followed after his senior year as he was chosen to the Academic all American team for NAIA, NAIA All American, and second team Little All American. He received the prestigious 1983 E. O. Humphrey award. The E. O. Humphrey award was named in honor of E. O. Humphrey, who was the first football coach at Joplin Junior College in 1937. The award honors the student athlete who best exemplifies the highest respect for Missouri Southern State University, athletic ability, leadership, and respect for fellow teammates and students. Tupper graduated Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Biology. He was asked to try out for the Tampa Bay Bandits and the Dallas Cowboys, and received letters of interest from the Seattle Seahawks and the Washington Redskins.
Tupper was accepted and attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. He did his residency training at the same institution and completed a fellowship in Pediatric Orthopedics at the Children’s Hospital of Denver, Colorado. He has a private practice of Orthopedics.
Tupper reflected on his career at Southern stating, “It was definitely the turning point in my life and was a fairy tale type time. I certainly started out the lowest man on the depth chart and through the guidance and help of several key people in my life refined the base provided by my parents and early coaches to be able to set goals and through self discipline achieve being the best I could be.”
Dr. Joel Tupper wad inducted into the Missouri Southern State University Hall of Fame in 1996.