Thanksgiving travels to Weatherspoon

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | 8:36 p.m. CST; updated 8:17 p.m. CST, Friday, November 28, 2008

COLUMBIA—When Sean Weatherspoon can’t make it home for a Texas Thanksgiving, don’t expect to see him mope. Instead, he takes action.

And brings a Texas Thanksgiving to him.

After an early morning workout Thursday, the team will be free until Friday at noon.

Weatherspoon plans to show the rest of his teammates how to celebrate in those precious 24 hours.

The Jasper, Tex. native convinced his mother to fly up to Missouri during his week off and prepare a Thanksgiving meal for him and several teammates.

“I gotta bring Thanksgiving to me,” Weatherspoon said.

Last year’s meal didn’t take near as much persuasion, however.

Elwanda Weatherspoon, along with Helen Woodson, the mother of junior wide receiver Danario Alexander, decided to surprise their sons by flying up the week of Thanksgiving to bring a Texas meal for their sons’ teammates.

Apparently some traditions happen by accident.

“It was kind of a joke at first, but then she actually got her plane ticket and just showed up on me,” Weatherspoon said.

For the rest of their classmates, it will be a Thanksgiving like most others. Spending a day with family, enjoying the annual feast, and taking in some football while getting away from the weekly routine.

For the Missouri football team, however, Thursday will be anything but a departure from the usual.

No lazy mornings sneaking bites of turkey and anxiously smelling the afternoon’s dinner simmering. Just sweat and repetitive drills, decorated with the sound of coaches’ screams and crashing pads.

Not exactly a welcome variation from the usual holiday traditions of the team’s newcomers.

“My family was talking about shipping me food, overnighting me some of my Granny’s home-cooked dressing,” said freshman defensive end Jacquies Smith. “That’s my favorite.”

Now that won’t be necessary. Smith will be one of several Texas natives in attendance to the second annual buffet.

Weatherspoon considers himself a leader on and off the field, so why not in the kitchen? As a freshman, Weatherspoon accompanied former tight end and current Cleveland Brown Martin Rucker to his family’s dinner. While it helped him deal with the loneliness of a holiday without family, there was still one big problem.

“It just wasn’t home, you know?” Weatherspoon said. “It was tough.”

Now, it’s Weatherspoon filling the role of big brother.

“Ruck, he really made a difference in me,” Weatherspoon said. “He let me know what you do when you see some of the younger guys out there looking a little down and things like that. I’m just glad I could do something.”

Weatherspoon isn’t the only Tiger hosting teammates. Freshman linebacker Will Ebner said he plans on heading to freshman quarterback Blaine Gabbert’s home near St. Louis with a couple teammates.

Sophomore Luke Lambert also invited what seemed like the entire team to his parents’ home in Brookfield, about 90 minutes north of Columbia.

Freshman cornerback Kenji Jackson will be headed to Brookfield, but he knows he’ll be giving up one of his favorite traditions this year.

“One thing I do on Thanksgiving is I like to try everybody’s dressing,” he said. “Dressing, giblet gravy and the cranberry sauce, that’s my favorite. I don’t need turkey or nothing, just dressing, that’s what I like.”

Back at the Weatherspoons, though, one tradition won’t be on hiatus this year.

“I like the honey ham my mom brings with her,” Weatherspoon said. “I’m a meat guy, I love protein, I don’t do too much of that other stuff, but I’m gonna eat a lot of ham, I’ll tell you that.”

Although Smith won’t be back in his hometown of Dallas on Thursday, the Weatherspoon household provides a kind of family atmosphere the Lone Star State just can’t offer him.

“My teammates, this is my family now,” he said. “These are the guys I’m going to be around a lot, a whole lot for the next few years. I love these guys like I love my family, so being together with them, I don’t have a problem with it.”

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