December 22, 2006

Seniors set to say goodbye in Sun Bowl

In one week, 19 players will suit up for the final time as Missouri Tigers. Win or lose, that group will leave Columbia as the first senior class in 23 years to play in at least three bowl games. They will have accomplished what every senior hopes to accomplish: They will leave the program in better shape than it was when they arrived.

Seven members of this class came to Mizzou in 2002, following Gary Pinkel's first season at Mizzou, and have been in the program for five of Pinkel's six years. Missouri was coming off a 4-and-7 season in which it got outscored in its final two games 79-10.

"The song that we sang back then was this," Pinkel said. "At Kent State, I played for Don James and they were awful and they eventually won. Then went to the University of Washington, wasn't very good at all and they won. Went to the University of Toledo, first four or five years we struggled, eventually won. And we're going to do the same thing here."

The speech was, admittedly, met with some serious skepticism.

"You walk in and you say, 'Hey, we're going to win,' and like you said, based on what?," Pinkel recalled. "I had parents sit there and tell me, I've watched what's happened at that place for years."

For the seven players who have been at Mizzou for those five full years , they bought into a program based on absolutely nothing outside of hope and potential.

"It helped me out knowing that he could coach," Marcus Bacon said of Pinkel. "He had success at so many programs."

"My family thought it would be good for me because they came up here, saw everything, saw the coaches. Coach Kul was my recruiting coach and they liked him, they liked the academics here. They were like, 'It would be a great place for you where you can live and become a man.'"

In the process, this class has moved Missouri up a rung or two on the ladder.

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