COLUMBIA -- It was December of 2012, and Justin Britt was lonely.
Most of Missouri’s players had gone home for the winter break after a disappointing end to a 5-7 season.
- Senior wide receiver Marcus Lucas wore the red no-contact jersey for the second day in a row. He injured his hamstring on Wednesday.
- The offense won the day's scrimmage and have earned back the black jerseys for Friday's practice, the last before the team's first fall scrimmage (Sat., 7:30 a.m.)
But Britt, who tore the ACL in his left knee in an early November loss to Florida, had work to do. So, with the facility nearly empty, he started rehabbing.
Missouri's athletic training staff was the only company Britt knew during the winter months. His friend and long-time teammate Elvis Fisher was training for the NFL. Running back Henry Josey, who was going through a similar but more grueling rehab process, was back in Texas.
Lonely is the only word Britt can come up with to describe what it was like walking to the facility day after day. But around that same time, Britt's home life got a bit more crowded. His fiancee, Alicia Bratten, gave birth to their first child, a baby girl named Navy.
Early morning rehab sessions became no problem for Britt. He used the winter and spring to get adjusted to life as a parent.
"My lifestyle has changed a lot," Britt said. "I guess babies get up early."
Sunday, August 4 marked eight months since Britt's daughter was born. Navy spent the day with her father, beneath a tent at Missouri's annual fan day, smiles spread across both their faces.
Over the past eight months, Britt has learned to be a parent. He's recovered from a major knee injury, and he's been preparing for his senior season, playing left tackle in the Southeastern Conference.
That's a lot to to handle, Britt admits. But he views it less as a challenge and more as a responsibility.
"Two years ago, I might have been thinking I don’t have to save my money," Britt said. "Now I have more people looking up to me for support through life."
Those lonely December mornings are a distant memory for Britt now. A week into fall camp, his knee feels fine. If he had to give it a grade, he says it would be 100-percent.
When he walks off the practice field soaked in sweat from conditioning drills, he still has the energy to laugh with Max Copeland and the other offensive linemen. He's back with teammates, he's enjoying life as a father, and he's healthy.
"It’s grounded him and centered him," Copeland said. "It’s made him have a fantastic perspective. I think he knows what’s important what’s not important, where his mind needs to be right here and right now.
"Don’t let him fool you, that takes a pretty high energy level doing what he’s doing."
Britt deflects praise for his high energy level, saying his fiancee deserves the credit.
“She leaves me a bunch of texts, a bunch of motivating texts, pictures of my daughter," Britt said. "I know she’s behind me 100 percent. She’ll always be. It’s very helpful."
Speaking of those pictures, Copeland has seen his fair share. He laughs when mentioning the how often Britt shows off his daughter. He's not alone in recognizing how the senior left tackle has embraced his role as a father.
"It's exciting to see," quarterback James Franklin said. "He's trying his best to become a good father figure not only to his baby girl but to us. His respect level has gone up just for that."
If nothing else, Britt has become an authority on all things parenting.
"I don’t know that I will be lucky enough to find a girl to give me a child," Copeland said. "But if I do, I’m going to be calling Justin Britt for some fatherly advice."