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Markus Golden makes leadership statement as fall camp opens

Monday, August 4, 2014 | 10:48 p.m. CDT
Missouri team captain Markus Golden kneels while observing team drills during the first football practice of fall camp at Memorial Stadium on Monday.

COLUMBIA — Markus Golden sent the red tackling dummy flying so far that a fellow defensive lineman — who started his slalom through the dummies on Golden's heels — had to cut his run short. There was nothing left to hit at the end of the line.

The rhythm of the drill was broken, and defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski wanted to know why. Because Markus swiped it so hard, that's why, an assistant told Kuligowski.

The D-line coach smiled. "Markus, did you really hit that thing that hard?" Kuligowski said.

The newly minted team captain didn't say much.  The red tackling dummy careening past the sideline was statement enough.

Fall camp began Monday, and Golden quickly showed that he'll be one of the Tigers' leaders in 2014.

The Tigers' promising defensive end has gone from a situational player behind Kony Ealy and Michael Sam to being named a team captain and sitting atop the depth chart. But Golden says captaining the team and starting won't be much of a transition. It remains to be seen how Golden will settle into his new roles, but one thing is certain: Some of his teammates took notice of his leadership during Monday's practice.

In 2013, Golden played well coming off the bench for the Tigers. The 6-foot-3, 260-pounder was disruptive despite playing only 40 percent of snaps: he amassed 6.5 sacks and 55 tackles, 13 of which were for a loss. According to ESPN.com, Golden could have gone pro after last season, and sites such as USA Today and SBNation project him to go in the top-25 of the 2015 NFL Draft.

This year, Golden and fellow defensive end Shane Ray will bookend a line that could be the strength of the defense, especially with the Tigers a bit thinner at linebacker and in the secondary. The D-line returns with the most experience — three of the four projected starters are seniors, and Shane Ray is a junior — but depth could be a point of concern. At this point, it's unknown who will step up in relief to provide the pop behind Ray and Golden.

One could argue that Golden is accustomed to transition. After all, he transferred to Missouri from Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College in 2012, and in the past three years, he has worked his way up the depth chart from special-teams role player to back-up D-lineman to starter and captain.

"It's difficult to come in as a transfer and earn that trust from your teammates," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "I think that means he's a pretty special guy."

Golden, one of four captains that teammates selected Monday, smiles when he talks about his new roles.

"It ain't no big transition for me," the St. Louis native said. "I'm just being myself out here and being the person I was raised to be."

What kind of person is Golden on the field? A teacher. On several occasions Monday, Golden mentored underclassmen, helping them with technique or discussing hand placement. Golden said he's paying forward the instruction he received when he arrived in Columbia.

During one point at practice, freshman defensive lineman Spencer Williams failed to perform a drill to Golden's liking.

"Hey, Spencer! Come back," Golden barked, directing Williams to repeat the drill.

If not a perfectionist, Golden seems to have embraced the work that goes into being a successful Southeastern Conference football team. His coach said he loves the discipline that comes with playing for the program. 

"He's been a G.I. Joe since the day he got here," Pinkel said.

He's also vocal.

Before the slalom drill, Golden noticed some of his teammates taking a knee and joking around — perhaps a mental lapse by the linemen.

"Four quarters, four quarters — it's time to get serious!" Golden said. "It's time. To get. Serious!"

His teammates responded. The joking stopped. The drill commenced. Golden started his run.

He snaked through four black tackling bags, smacking the backs of each with his inside arm as he hurtled passed. The final dummy — the red one — awaited.

Amid the sounds of construction coming from Memorial Stadium's east stands, the defensive end punctuated the start of his captaincy of the 2014 Missouri football team by sending the red dummy flying.

Supervising editor is Mark Selig.


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