COLUMBIA — In 2009, Michael Egnew, Jerrell Jackson and Jacquies Smith, then sophomores on the Missouri football team, formed a rap group called the Kentucky Boulevard Boys with teammates Zaviar Gooden, Kip Edwards and Marcus Murphy.
KBB wasn't exactly a serious endeavor, and Jackson laughs and says they were trying to go platinum and were "dropping tracks," though he added he still listens to some of the songs on occasion.
Michael Egnew, 6-8, 245 pounds: The tight end had his best season for the Tigers in 2010 when he caught 90 passes for 762 yards and was named a consensus First-Team All-American.
Jacquies Smith, 6-4, 255 pounds: Smith, a defensive end, led Missouri with five sacks in 2011.
Jerrell Jackson, 6-1, 185 pounds: Like Egnew, wide receiver Jackson's best season was 2010, when he caught 50 passes for 656 yards.
Dominique Hamilton, 6-5, 305 pounds: Hamilton, a defensive lineman, started all 13 games in 2011 and had a career-high 56 tackles.
The first round of the 2012 NFL Draft begins at 8 p.m. Thursday. Rounds two and three begin at 7 p.m. Friday, and rounds four through seven begin at noon Saturday. Coverage is available on ESPN, the NFL Network and NFL.com.
Despite failing to successfully start professional music careers, Egnew, Jackson and Smith have a chance to start professional careers in the area that brought them together at South Residence Hall during the fall of 2008 — football.
The three former rappers, as well as defensive lineman Dominique Hamilton, are the four Tigers who attended the NFL Combine this year and have the best chances of being selected in this weekend's 2012 NFL Draft.
With such a great chance comes great anticipation. Until the three-day, seven-round draft begins at 8 p.m. Thursday, Smith described it as a "wait-and-see type of game," where "whatever's gonna happen is gonna happen anyway." It leaves little to do but sit and think, or not think, about the draft.
Luckily for Jackson, he is the only one of the four still in school — Egnew, Smith and Hamilton all graduated in December — so the combination of training and classwork to finish his degree in Health Sciences has kept his mind off the coming days.
While Jackson is studying, Egnew, Smith and Hamilton have had to come up with their own ways to keep busy.
Egnew, whom many analysts have projected as the highest draft prospect for the Tigers, said he has stuck to a regular routine of waking up, working out and heading off to do any activity to keep his mind off the draft.
On Tuesday, Egnew and Jackson — who Hamilton jokes are as close as Batman and Robin — went out to shoot sporting clays.
Hamilton has been traveling across the country to train. After defeating North Carolina in the Indepence Bowl in December, Hamilton went to Atlanta to train at Competitive Edge Sports before heading to Orlando, Fla., to play in the East-West Shrine Game, a college all-star game that also serves as a benefit event for Shriners Hospitals for Children.
Other stops on Hamilton's tour included the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, training in Los Angeles, a trip to visit his girlfriend and her family in Colorado and a final stop in New York, where he will be watching the draft with his family.
Unlike his teammates, Smith has a much more laid back approach to keeping his mind off the draft.
Smith said Hamilton, whom he has grown close with over the past year and a half, is a clown and keeps calling him with predictions of where he thinks they're going to end up. But Smith isn't worried about it.
"I'm a pretty calm and cool collected guy, you know." Smith said. "I can sit back and chill out. I watch TV a lot. I'm kind of a big kid, sitting at home watching cartoons."
But like his teammates, Smith hasn't let up on his conditioning. To prepare himself for the transition to the NFL, Smith has worked out with a number of NFL players, including free agent wide receiver Roy Williams and Missouri alumni Sean Weatherspoon and Martin Rucker. Smith said he and Weatherspoon, now a linebacker with the Atlanta Falcons, have always been close and didn't discuss much about the draft.
"He just told me don't worry about it," Smith said. "Whatever situation I get put in, he knows I'll be ready to go, and I know I have myself ready to go out there and make a splash."
None of the four mentioned a specific team they wanted to go to. Hamilton said he just wants to hear his name called. Egnew said it would be an honor to play in the NFL at all.
"Right now I just hope I go to a team that has good coaches," Egnew said. "I'm unbiased as far as where that is."
Egnew will be watching the draft with his family and his girlfriend's family at his girlfriend's parents house. Jackson from Houston and Smith from Dallas will be returning home to Texas, wanting their names to be called while they're with family.
Hamilton, who flew into New York on Wednesday morning, already has a plan to keep himself from getting too anxious Thursday night. With his phone on loud and the TV on, he said he will probably have his Xbox handy.
"I'll probably play 'Call of Duty,'" he said.
Staying stress-free is important for Hamilton, who said he won't play "NBA 2k12" before the draft because he will get frustrated if he loses while waiting to hear his name get called. With all the traveling and training he has done since the end of the season, he is trying to stay in the moment in the remaining time before the draft.
"When there's so many people in the world that would love to have this dream job, I'm just soaking it all in," Hamilton said.
However, enjoying the moment isn't an excuse for him to quit working. He said he would even be exercising on the first day of the draft.
"I still actually have to do a little working out here in a little bit, during the upcoming days and all the way until I need to go report to the team," Hamilton said. "But yeah, I'm looking forward to hearing my name called."
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.