COLUMBIA — It would not be right to vomit on the Tigers logo at the center of Faurot Field, Mitch Morse knows.
And so Morse, one of the Missouri football team’s four captains who will stand on that logo for each home game pre-kickoff coin flip, will try not to.
It’s just that he will have to complete his pregame ritual sooner than usual.
“Right before the captains went out, there’s like a two-minute break where we come inside (the locker room) from warming up,” the personable 6-foot-6, 305-pound left tackle said. “And I just vacate my stomach, everything just kind of leaves. It's a purge.”
That’s how it was, Morse said, before each game of 2013, a year in which he served as the right tackle for a unit that paved the way for one of the country’s most potent offenses. Captains were called out to the field, and he made his way to a toilet or trash can.
Coming off a Southeastern Conference East division championship, the fifth-year senior will have to make an adjustment in his final season in Columbia.
“It’ll be different this year,” he said with a chuckle. “It helps me kinda get focused for some reason. It’s just my niche. I don't know what it’s about.”
It wasn’t always like this — not when he was playing at his small private high school in Austin, Texas. Of course, the stage was smaller then, and as his mother, Catherine Morse, recalled, “He just was dominant.”
Which was no longer the case once he arrived to the Division I landscape. Morse registered at 265 pounds, roughly 20 pounds less than the average weight of this year’s six true freshmen. He redshirted his first year on campus in 2010.
Coach Gary Pinkel came to know him as “a company man.”
“One of those guys that got in here, ‘Yes sir, no sir, just tell me what I need to do to help this team win,’” Pinkel said.
Not once, Morse’s parents insist, did he ever step into a principal’s office when he was growing up. Teachers were struck by an unwavering obedience.
“Mitch is a rule follower,” his mother said. “He’s always worried about getting into trouble and making sure he’s followed the rules.”
There was this one time he bent the rules as a toddler. Rather, in this instance, he made the rules. It was a dodgeball-fashioned game that was henceforth known as “Mitchball” by all the kids on the block. He thinks back to that game, and he loves it.
He doesn't seek name recognition as the Tigers' captain.
“He’s a silent leader, that's what I feel about Mitch,” center Evan Boehm said. “He leads by example. He works hard each and every time, and he’s always doing the right thing.”
But when things go wrong, they are a source of torment for Morse, “a perfectionist,” according to many of his teammates. In 2012, when Missouri needed a center for its inaugural SEC season, Morse stepped in only to realize that the position was not for him.
In the team’s first conference game at home against Georgia, and on national television, he opened the first offensive series with two snaps that looped over quarterback James Franklin’s head. The loss was tough to swallow.
“I think it was more when he started maybe reading some of the Twitter feeds,” his mother said. “It was like, ‘Oh my god, people are really pissed at me.’”
Morse, along with being the adamant rule follower, has always strived to please.
“Talk about being tough on your confidence,” Pinkel said of Morse, who went on to also play guard and tackle that sophomore year as the line shuffled through injuries. “I mean, it was really a gut-wrenching experience for him.”
In November of that 2012 season, Morse’s consecutive streak of barfing before a game began on the road against then-No. 8 Florida. There were over 90,000 fans in the stands.
“I just let loose,” he said. “And it was like, oh, I feel great.”
He calls that year “a learning experience.”
“He had a choice to turn it into something positive or go the other way, and he turned it into something positive,” Pinkel said. “He had a great year last year."
2013 provided him confidence.
“You’re always expecting the best from your performance, and if you underperform — or if you’re worried you’re gonna underperform — it stresses you out a little bit,” he said.
As a captain this season, he said it’s important that he still let loose.
Just not on the Tigers logo.
Supervising editor is Mark Selig.