COLUMBIA — Max Copeland gets weird.
He gets weird on the practice field and in the meeting room. He gets weird in the locker room and the weight room.
And this fall, he hopes to get weird on Saturday afternoons on Faurot Field.
The phrase serves as a kind of battle cry for the Missouri football team's offensive line, Copeland included, describing the way it plays and the attitude it brings to assignments. "Getting weird" is a state of mind, one that transforms student-athletes into run-blocking machines.
“It’s just kind of going to a different place,” tackle Elvis Fisher said. “We’re not sitting inside reading school books right now. We’re playing football. When you’re getting weird, you have to get mean and nasty. That’s what offensive linemen are.”
Copeland, a redshirt junior from Billings, Mont., isn't known for his natural athleticism. After barely being recruited in high school, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound guard walked on at Missouri.
But what he lacks in recognition, he more than makes up for in enthusiasm. Since Day One, Copeland has been a vocal leader of the offensive line. His voice, distinctive and gravelly, rises above the crowd during practices.
Copeland sees his personality as a cog in the offensive line’s overall attitude. Each player has a unique role, he says, even if his is louder than most.
Fisher, a sixth-year senior, is undoubtedly the leader of the group. The wily veteran was named a captain this season for the second time, a year after a ruptured patellar tendon ended his 2011 season before it began.
Regardless, he maintains a carefree attitude on the field, willing to heckle Copeland one second and pick him up the next.
Evan Boehm, a true freshman for the Tigers, has none of Fisher's experience but all of the physical talent. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound guard was a highly touted recruit coming into fall practice and is delivering on high expectations.
In the mix of characters on Missouri's line, he seems to possess a quiet determination unusual for his age.
“We all bring our own different energy,” Copeland said. “Mine’s a little more apparent. We need a rock and roller to get up and fiery, and I fill that role.”
His efforts rarely fail.
“Who’s ready to go, men?” he barks at the linemen behind him, like a drill sergeant addressing his massive troops. Before the next drill begins, he leads a sort of lumbering charge toward the other side of the field, his helmet raised in the air emphatically as he trots.
Copeland’s unit hits the trenches in an inside run drill, where the offensive line repeatedly attempts to blow open holes for the running backs behind them. After every successful run, Copeland explodes in celebration, making guttural war cries as his fists pump in violent, unencumbered joy.
Copeland's energy — boisterous and constant — doesn’t fade when Copeland takes off his jersey. He sees himself as the team’s resident “rock and roller,” and that lifestyle doesn’t take time off.
“In the meeting rooms, he’s doing all of these crazy chants and all that. And on game day it’s the same way,” Fisher said. “He’s always out here doing that, so it’s good to have him out here.”
Copeland's hair, of course, is almost as recognizable as the distinctive, head-turning voice. His long, dirty blond locks hang haphazardly below his shoulders, the result of a mane that hasn't been approached by scissors in over three years.
He says it's a symbol of the dedication necessary to have success.
“It gets a little longer every day, and every day I put in a little more work," he said, grasping at a few long strands of messy hair hanging limply around his eyes. "At the end of five years, it’s going to represent a lot of hard work.”
Copeland is hoping to turn some of that work into a starting spot for the Tigers this season. After expected starter Travis Ruth tore his triceps last week, he was thrown into a competition for the vacant left guard position with Boehm.
Whether he gets the position or not, he is still making solid contributions on Missouri's line. Copeland's are just weirder than others'.