COLUMBIA — Blaine Gabbert found a familiar target when he completed a four-yard pass in Thursday’s scrimmage on Faurot Field. It was Wes Kemp, a player he’s known since they were in seventh grade.
Despite playing at different high schools in the St. Louis area, the players, both sophomores, remained friends. They were roommates last year. Now, Gabbert is the first-team quarterback for Missouri in preseason camp and Kemp is one of the first-team wide receivers.
When Gabbert and Kemp first met, they were rivals, not teammates. Kemp was playing for Parkway Northeast Middle School and Gabbert was playing for Parkway West Middle School.
“He beat me by one touchdown,” Kemp said. “I was pretty upset, but I lived on.”
Despite being upset about the loss, Kemp had noticed Gabbert.
“I remember just coming out there and I was like, ‘Who is this big kid just throwing the ball?’” Kemp said. “He just kept throwing it deep, burned a couple of our DB’s. So I was pretty angry.”
Kemp went to high school at DeSmet. Gabbert went to Parkway West. Although they didn’t go the same high school, they stayed in touch. They heard about each other through the recruiting grapevine. On Sundays, they trained at the same facility, Velocity Sports Performance in Chesterfield. They ran passing drills together there, the beginning of their on-field connection.
“We’ve always really known each other and been good friends,” Kemp said. “It was nothing to be roommates.”
The pair didn’t originally commit to play together in college. Gabbert was committed to Nebraska and Kemp was committed to play for Wisconsin. After Gabbert switched his commitment to Missouri, he sent text messages to Kemp.
“Missouri just went to the No. 1 ranking, that was a eye-opener,” Kemp said. “And then, just having a caliber quarterback that I’ve trained with and I’ve seen him first-hand, Blaine, and I knew his potential. So I thought it was a no-brainer to come here.”
Kemp switched his commitment to Missouri.
Having known Gabbert for years, Kemp said he feels comfortable playing with him.
“We did have a good chemistry throwing the ball,” Kemp said. “But I think Blaine’s got a good chemistry with all the receivers and the great thing about him, he knows how to spread the ball around to everybody.”
Gabbert said his time at Missouri has made him comfortable with all of his receivers, Kemp included.
“I know what he’s going to do, he’s a big body,” Gabbert said. “I know I can put it wherever and he’s going to catch the football.”
Gabbert played in five games last season and completed five passes.
Kemp played in seven games last season and had one reception for 15 yards. Receivers coach Andy Hill said he has been working with Kemp on better utilizing his speed. Kemp said he feels more comfortable in his second season at Missouri.
“As a young guy, sometimes you’re trying to think too much,” Hill said. “It happens to everyone. I think this year he’s just more comfortable in the offense; it allows him to play better.”