COLUMBIA - Evan Boehm sat in the corner of the locker room in College Station, Texas, next to his mentor, Elvis Fisher.
Missouri was staring down the barrel of its first losing season since 2004. The Tigers' only hope of salvaging bowl eligibility was to knock off soon-to-be Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and the Aggies at Texas A&M.
But Boehm, then a freshman, couldn't help but notice Fisher's composure. Fisher sat in his locker, leaning back, hands behind his head with a smile on his face. The sixth-year senior had come to a realization.
"He said to me, 'Evan, this is my last game,'" Boehm recalls. "'All I want to do is go out and have fun.'"
Texas A&M won the game 59-29, but that didn't stop Fisher from enjoying his last college game, and Boehm said it was the best he saw Fisher play all season long. That stuck with the freshman.
"He loved the game," Boehm said. "Before a game I would always be like, 'We have a game, we have a game.' He would just sit back and say, 'Evan, chill out dude. It's just a game.'"
Now a sophomore, Boehm has taken on some of the qualities of his former mentor, according to teammates. Senior guard Max Copeland refers to Boehm as the little brother of the offensive line. He's always laughing, full of energy and keeping the mood light.
"You can't be serious all the time," Boehm said with a laugh. "You've got to mix some games in there."
And Boehm doesn't shy away from mixing in games. Before practice, Boehm and quarterback James Franklin find a song on the locker room playlist and start dancing with one another. After practice, when teammates are doing interviews, Boehm can be found dancing behind them or whispering in their ears. Anything to get a laugh.
"It's supposed to be fun," Boehm said. "It's not as serious as everyone thinks it is."
That's not to say Boehm doesn't take the game seriously. After spending his freshman season at guard, Boehm is making the transition to center. He spent all summer working on his snap technique and says he is still constantly taking mental repetitions.
But Boehm's ability to keep the game fun has helped him carve out his place in a tight-knit group of offensive linemen. Boehm said the five starting linemen are all tied into a group chat on their phones and often get together for cookouts or movies.
"It's a family," Boehm said. "That's what you keep on hearing. My family is an hour and a half away in Kansas City, but I feel like I'm with my family when I'm here. I'm with Max (Copeland), I'm with Justin (Britt), I'm with Mitch (Morse), I'm with Connor (McGovern). We're always hanging out together."
Boehm brings the energy to the offensive line, but like with any family, balance is important. Copeland insists the offensive line has that.
"Evan's like the playful puppy dog of the O-line, because he's the youngest of us," Copeland said. "We affectionately refer to Mitch Morse as 'Dad,' because he's the dad of the O-line. He'll wear sweaters and slippers, and he talks like a dad. His mannerisms are funny."
Part of the reason the Tigers' offensive linemen have developed such a bond is because they have all managed to stay healthy. In 2012, Missouri was reshuffling its offensive line far too often and limped into the season without the starting five in tact.
Now, the group is completely healthy, except for a bruise Boehm has on his foot, which he blames on Copeland's clumsy feet. That health has the coaches confident that the team can improve on the 29 sacks it allowed a year ago.
"It's one of those things where continuity is so important," offensive coordinator Josh Henson said. "It just leads to more consistent play. We feel pretty good about our starting five."