Missouri football captains a special group

Thursday, August 4, 2011 | 10:22 p.m. CDT; updated 11:38 p.m. CDT, Thursday, August 4, 2011
Missouri tight end Michael Egnew pulls down a pass at the Tigers' first preseason practice. Before practice started, Egnew was named one of four captains for this season's team.

COLUMBIA — As the upperclassmen on the Missouri football team waited on Elvis Fisher for a senior class picture Wednesday, they figured the left tackle had forgotten.

In fact, Fisher didn't even know about the meeting. When he finally found out, his teammates met his eventual arrival with bows, slow clapping and a new nickname: "Captain Elvis."

Murphy out for season

Sophomore running back Marcus Murphy will be redshirted this season after undergoing surgery in July for a torn labrum in his shoulder, coach Gary Pinkel confirmed after the Tigers' first practice on Thursday.

Murphy, a 5-foot-9, 185-lb running back from DeSoto, Texas, ran for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries last season. He was listed fourth on the depth chart this preseason.

Pinkel said that while Murphy could recover and play later in the season, the coaches didn't want to risk aggravating the injury.

"Even if you’re ready in October, it’s the kind of position where you get banged a lot," Pinkel said. "We could have waited on surgery and talked to the medical staff about seeing if he can make it through the season, but if after four games, he tweaks it, then all of the sudden the whole year is gone. I didn’t want to do that."

Even without Murphy, Missouri will still have depth at the position. Starters Kendial Lawrence and De'Vion Moore return, as does Henry Josey, who contributed as a freshman last season. Redshirt freshman Greg White, who at 6-foot-1 and 215 lbs offers fullback-like size, might get carries as well.

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Apparently, the confusion about the photo shoot wasn't considered when measuring Fisher's leadership ability.

On Thursday morning, the Tigers voted for team captains before their first practice of the season. Fisher, as well as tight end Michael Egnew, defensive end Jacquies Smith and strong safety Kenji Jackson, were selected for the leadership role.

The players based their ballots on the type of example the captains have set on the field during practices and games.

"Your teammates see someone out there who competes every game and wants to work hard," Fisher said. "This is my fifth year doing that, and I think everyone knows it."

"It's about being looked upon as a role model," Smith said. "If I can help out a younger guy and do what I can, I will. That's what you need on the team — you need guys who are going to lead."

The team met Thursday morning and split up into their practice groups. After considering players from all the positions, they wrote down their selections. At 1 p.m., coach Gary Pinkel announced the new leaders.

Fisher has dealt with injuries throughout his time at Missouri but has performed when he's been on the field. Against Iowa in the 2010 Insight Bowl, Fisher matched up against All-American Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn. Despite nursing a shoulder injury, Fisher limited Clayborn to one tackle and no sacks.

Jackson, who considers himself a leader by example, said the type of courage Fisher has shown is something the players consider when voting for captains.

"We see that type of thing when we choose a leader," he said. "Elvis has been through a lot, and I think that played a big part in how some of us were selected."

Smith is the vocal leader of the team. He watched past captains such as Sean Weatherspoon and watched how they motivated their peers. He has become the guy who knows how to encourage teammates in multiple ways and was recognized for that last season when he won the team's outstanding underclassman leadership award.

"He commands attention when he speaks," Jackson said. "We respond to him really well. He's a warm guy, (but) he helps provide an upbeat tempo. You need tenacity on defense, and he understands that."

Egnew is the player his teammates aspire to be. They saw how he came into last season as a back-up with a career total of seven catches. Then they saw him become the team's chosen MVP and best tight end in the nation with 90 receptions, 462 yards and five touchdowns.

"I've got a lot of respect for Egnew," Fisher said. "He makes those tough catches and gets those tough yards. Everybody has a leadership role on the team, and that's what we respect about him.

As for Fisher, the "Captain Elvis" jokes continued after he was officially named one. It didn't bother him. As he sees it, giving and taking such jabs is part of the fun of playing. 

"That's what I love about Missouri and love about playing college ball," he said. "You can joke around a little harder than somebody we don't know could. We all give each other crap now and then, but that's what makes it fun for me."

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