WENTZVILLE — Nick Demien's mother didn't want him to play football, but he couldn't resist some friendly advice.
Demien concentrated on baseball until the seventh grade, which was when a friend’s father bluntly told him he was stupid for not playing football. Demien had a good body for the sport. He was 6-foot-3 and weighed about 225 pounds.
Nick Demien’s commitment represents a changing trend for Missouri's football program, which has been losing in-state talent to other schools.
Only 17 of the 35 players that Rivals.com ranked in the top five in the state in the past seven years signed with Missouri. However, the No. 1 prospects in the state the past two years (defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, who went to junior college in Visalia, Calif., and quarterback Blaine Gabbert) committed to the Tigers.
Nick Demien is the state's third consecutive No. 1 player to commit.
“It’s maybe not a shift in what Mizzou is doing as a program,” Demien said. “They’ve seemed pretty steady and up on the rise. In-state players are starting to notice it a little bit more.”
“I didn’t want him to play football,” his mother, Leslee Demien, said. “I didn’t think it was necessary to play football before high school. I didn’t want to push him into it. It turned his whole life around. He didn’t want to play baseball anymore. He didn’t do any other sports.”
Nick Demien, a senior at Timberland High School in Wentzville, played as a lineman in seventh grade because there was a weight limit on players who could carry the ball. His coach decided to let him have a little fun the next season.
“He put me at tight end, because he knew I’d never touch a football ever again in my entire life,” Nick Demien said. “He gave me a chance to do that. It was fun. Otherwise, I was on the offensive line.”
He has since grown to 6-6, 293 pounds and become scouting service Rivals.com's 61st best high school senior in the country. Nick Demien committed to Missouri on Aug. 15, a decision that challenged him for quite some time.
“In the end, it came down to Oklahoma and Mizzou,” he said. “I did an unofficial visit there. It was pretty tough. In my mind, I was stupid not to go there (MU).”
Nick Demien is an avid Tigers football fan and has watched many games. He also might have been influenced by his uncle David Demien, who played for Missouri in the 1970s.
“He’s a bit skinnier than me,” Nick Demien said.
Nick Demien has suffered two significant injuries since entering high school. Just 13 days after committing to Missouri, he tore the lateral meniscus in his left knee during the eighth play of Timberland’s preseason Jamboree scrimmage. Nick Demien limped back to the huddle but couldn’t support his weight and was taken out of the game.
“It’s pretty minute in terms of knee injuries,” he said. “The way I tore it, it takes a little bit longer to heal. It shouldn’t affect me any longer down the road. It’s coming along great. I’m done with rehab with the doctor. I just need to strengthen it up, get everything back to where I can get it.”
Nick Demien returned for his team's final two games of the season. This knee injury comes two years after he broke the scaphoid bone in his right hand, which limited the flexibility in his wrist. Doctors put him in a cast his sophomore year, but once it was taken off he still experienced pain while wrestling.
Nick Demien went through a series of doctors who couldn’t figure out what was wrong. (It's sometimes difficult to see a broken scaphoid bone in x-rays.) He consulted a doctor with the St. Louis Rams to solve the problem.
The solution was wrist surgery and ended with him playing football with pins in his arm during his junior season. The only reminder of that injury is “a pretty little line” on his right wrist.
“He (the doctor) said, ‘You’re going to be able to play this season. It’ll hurt. You’re going to look goofy, but you’re going to play,’” Nick Demien said. “Up until the end, it hurt every down and every play.”
Alone, these injuries might seem insignificant. However, he has had trouble avoiding getting hurt.
“Yes,” Leslee Demien said with a laugh. “He’s had a few. It seemed like it happened every year.”
While he was hitting at a golfing range, Nick Demien shouted to his friend not to swing when he walked up. His friend must have not heard him. On the follow-through, the golf club hit Nick Demien in the cheek, broke the skin, but didn’t make it all the way through to his mouth.
“It got pretty close,” he said. “Just an accident, really.”
A few years later, Nick Demien received a horse named Outlaw as his 10th birthday present. (He thought his parents were joking when they said he would get one.) Demien was riding when he tried to make a turn and the horse slid and fell with him on top.
“It definitely crushed my foot,” he said. “It wasn’t anything crazy.”
Demien got back on his horse within two weeks of the injury, cast on his foot. He has since added two more horses.
“Some things, I probably kind of pushed the envelope and got caught doing it,” he said. “But, you know, it happens in life. Some have it rougher than others.”