COLUMBIA - Picture this: You are a star on Missouri's football team. The most high-profile recruit the school has ever reeled in. You just scored the first touchdown of your career a week earlier, and your team is getting ready for a home game against Vanderbilt, a Southeastern Conference opponent.
The game is set to kickoff. Seventy-thousand people are packed into Memorial Stadium, eyes glued on the Tigers, ready to strain their vocal cords for the sake of the team.
Normally they would be cheering for you, but you're not on the field. In fact, you're not even in the stadium. You're a few miles away, watching the game on TV with your grandparents in their hotel room.
That's exactly what wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham was doing when Missouri lost to Vanderbilt 19-15 in 2012. Then a freshman, Green-Beckham was suspended for Missouri's game against Vanderbilt after being arrested for suspicion of marijuana possession, a charge that was later reduced to trespassing.
He wasn't allowed to be around the team or the athletic department in general. When his grandparents heard the news, they made the trip to Columbia.
"I wasn’t even allowed to be around athletics at all," Green-Beckham said. "It’s always good to hang out with your grandparents, too, though. But at that time I was still upset, still mad about it."
Green-Beckham was used to being the fish that everyone was staring at in the bowl. Every time No. 15 trotted onto the field, his 6-foot-6-inch frame captured the attention of everyone in the stadium.
But on this day, Green-Beckham was on the outside looking in. He heard his name mentioned on the broadcast, but not for the usual reasons. Instead of talking about Green-Beckham's game-breaking speed or reliable hands, his suspension was the topic of conversation.
It was a perspective Green-Beckham didn't like at the time. As hard as it was to have all eyes on him every time he stepped onto Faurot Field, he hated watching. He wanted nothing more than to step onto the field and feel that intense pressure. Anything but watching on TV.
"It was tough to just watch my team go out there and walk out on that field without me and without some of us other players," Green-Beckham said. "It was tough just sitting there. I never really missed a game really even high school. That was probably the first game I’ve ever missed."
Chalk it up as a lesson learned for Green-Beckham. He finished his freshman season with four touchdowns in his final five games and has continued his impressive pace with four touchdowns in four games to start 2013. Missouri has made a concerted effort to get him the football, and it's paying off.
"He’s making a lot of strides," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. "We all know it’s wise to give him opportunities."
On Saturday, Vanderbilt will see Green-Beckham for the first time. That's a positive for the sophomore wide receiver, a silver lining he couldn't see as a frustrated freshman watching a game with his grandparents.
"I didn’t play in this game, so I have to show them I’m back and I can play," Green-Beckham said. "This is the game I have to show up to.
"They didn’t get to see us last year, so now they’re going to see what we’re really like this year."
There's a maturity in the way Green-Beckham speaks about the suspension. He's not angry when its brought up in conversation. He doesn't shut down or refuse to comment. Just like his freshman season as a whole, the suspension doesn't define who Green-Beckham is. But it did help him get to where he is now.
"A lot of things can happen," Green-Beckham said. "Last year that happened. Four of us had to sit out because of that.
"I felt like I could have done better last year. It was just those errors I had coming in as a true freshman, just a freshman mindset, really. Just using that coming into this year really got me better going through summer."
Now he's starting to resemble the player everyone expected him to be. His sprinter's speed and towering frame are more than just signs of his vast potential. In 2013, those physical abilities are translating to yards on the field and points on the scoreboard.
Vanderbilt will have to take note of Green-Beckham on Saturday with no past experience to draw from. This time, Green-Beckham won't be stuck in a hotel room, watching on TV. He'll be the center of attention, the focal point of the defense and a high-priority target for Missouri's offense.
He wouldn't have it any other way.
Supervising editor is Greg Bowers.