Tiger football alumni come back to Columbia for spring football game

Saturday, April 17, 2010 | 5:33 p.m. CDT; updated 10:28 p.m. CDT, Saturday, April 17, 2010
Former MU quarterback Chase Daniel speaks with Hayden Ekern and Kellen Ekern during the halftime show of the Black and Gold game Saturday.

Roughly 200 football team alumni descended on Columbia this week to take part in the Spring football game festivities, which included a golf tournament on Friday afternoon and a luncheon before kickoff on Saturday.

Four members of 2007 Tigers who now play in the NFL, including 2007 Heisman Trophy finalist Chase Daniel, traveled to Columbia for the game.

Daniel, who was on the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints' roster last year, said he was excited to be back in Columbia. Daniel spent Thursday and Friday night in Columbia and will head back to New Orleans for team workouts on Monday. 

Daniel maintains a relationship with current Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert— Gabbert was a freshman, backing up the senior Daniel on the 2008 football team. Daniel said that there's not much he can tell Gabbert to help the Tigers before the 2010 season.

"Blaine needs to just play. He doesn't need any of my wisdom," Daniel said. "This is his year to step up, and from what I've heard he's done that."

Another former Tiger, Jeremy Maclin of the Philadelphia Eagles, flew in for the weekend. Maclin left the program after his junior season, but said he was happy to come back and support the team.

With recent signees and prospective recruits in attendance, having a player of Maclin's caliber—he was drafted 19th overall in the 2009 NFL draft—roaming the sidelines is a big boost, offensive coordinator David Yost said. 

"It's great for our guys to see guys who are having success in the NFL," Yost said. "We have recruits here, and they know who J-Mac is, and they think 'That could be me down the road.'"

Former Missouri tight end Martin Rucker, a teammate of Maclin's with the Eagles, sees the spring game as an opportunity to reflect on the progress of the Missouri football program. Rucker takes pride in the state of the Missouri program, a point he has tried to instill in the next generation of Missouri players.

"I tell them that they are not only playing for themselves and their team, they are also playing for the teams in the past," Rucker said. "When we were here playing it was hard to get good recruits. We were playing for Mizzou, to get a top-15 recruiting class in here."

For Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel it was a day to sit back and revel. Pinkel roamed the sidelines during the game, chatting with former players on the sidelines. Before the game, Pinkel addressed the nearly 600 former players and their family members at the football alumni luncheon.

Pinkel also joked that he saw too many players that he coached at the event.

"The event was absolutely unbelievable," Pinkel said. "It's more than we've ever had come back. In fact, there were so many players upstairs that I was coaching, that it suggests I'm aging."

The four current NFL players in attendance, Daniel, Rucker, Maclin and Kansas City Chiefs guard Colin Brown will all rejoin their teams at off season workouts on Monday.

The spring game also marks the end of spring practice. The Tigers will not formally practice again until August, though team leaders will engage in two informal and voluntary training sessions each week during the summer.

Daniel said that he no wisdom to share with Gabbert, but that's not entirely true. Gabbert wore the customary quarterback attire of a green jersey, meaning no one could tackle him during the scrimmage on Saturday. During the game Gabbert broke the pocket and ran for a big gain up the middle of the field. Defensive players were hesitant to bring down Gabbert, opting instead to two-hand touch the sprinting quarterback. Daniel said that Gabbert shouldn't expect Big 12 opponents, or his own teammates to afford him such easy runs.

"The green jersey is a great. It's a great feeling when you can't get hurt," Daniel said. "But it will start coming along really fast here with the end of spring practice."

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