Three years ago, Eddie Calvin never thought he would get the chance to step onto Faurot Field as a player.
Coming out of Rockwood Summit High School in St. Louis, Calvin had attended Missouri football camps in Columbia and was interested in becoming a Tiger when the time came.
But when he reached the end of his high school career, it was apparent that Calvin, an all-state kick returner and an all-conference defensive back, would not be receiving an offer from Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.
"It wasn't picking SEMO over Missouri," said Calvin, now a defensive back for Southeast Missouri State University. "I went to some camps at Missouri, and during the recruiting season, I had heard nothing from them."
The knock on Calvin was that his size would not allow him to play at college football's highest level. But Calvin, who was also being recruited as a sprinter and hurdler for track, still wanted to play Division I football.
SEMO was willing to give Calvin a chance, and he's made the most of it.
"He was part of our first recruiting class," Redhawks coach Tony Samuel said. "He's been here the whole time, and he's gotten better every year. He put the size on, and now he's got the experience. We're real fortunate to have him."
Samuel might be pleased with Calvin's size (6 feet 1 inch, 170 pounds) now, but that wasn't always the case. Size was an issue even after Calvin became a Redhawk and is the reason Calvin is no longer on the Redhawks' track team.
"I wasn't really keeping my weight," Calvin said. "My weight kept fluctuating. So it was really hard to do both sports and be good at them both."
At the end of his sophomore year, Calvin decided that he could no longer be a two-sport athlete. Something had to go, and football owned his heart.
"I just love football, so it meant more to me than track did," he said.
Now the sport he loves has given him and 31 other Redhawks the opportunity to play against their home state's flagship school, which has transformed itself from a middle-of-the-road team in the Big 12 to a national power.
"It's pretty big," Calvin said. "I've been looking forward to it all through camp and all summer. When I didn't pick there to go to school, I did not think that I was going to be able to play there, ever. I'm pretty excited about it, and I'm going to try to perform."
Calvin's done a fine job of performing since coming to Cape Girardeau in 2006. In the Redhawks' 35-28 overtime win against Southwest Baptist, he became only the 26th player in NCAA history to return an interception 100 yards or more for a touchdown.
It was one of three interceptions for Calvin in SEMO's opener, and Samuel credited Calvin with saving the Redhawks.
"He had three good picks, and those three picks were plays that basically saved our butt," Samuel said. "They were all momentum changers when we were battling to get momentum. We were behind the eight ball for three quarters."
But performing well against the passing attack of a team like Southwest Baptist is nothing new to Calvin. Facing the Missouri Tigers' passing offense, though, will be his biggest challenge as a collegiate football player.
As a player who never thought he would even play against a team the caliber of Missouri, he's thrilled.
"I've been waiting for years to show that I am capable of playing on the same field as bigger, stronger opponents," he said. "When I was recruited, the biggest problem was my size."
But Calvin isn't concerned with proving Missouri or other big schools wrong for not offering him a scholarship, he's only concerned about himself.
"I don't hold grudges," he said. "It's OK, you can doubt me. It's just knowing what I can do and showing that I can play. It's not really a big thing proving them wrong, it's me playing my ball."
Last week, playing his ball meant doubling his career interception total. That probably isn't going to happen this week, but Calvin thinks turnovers, along with what he hopes is overconfidence from the Tigers, are the Redhawks' best hope.
"If we can get a couple turnovers, and the special teams play well, we hope to be in it," Calvin said. "We plan on being in it. It's going to be hard, but we kind of think of it as since they won big over Illinois, they're going to blow ... (the game) off."