Sticking around

Former Tiger is at home at Rockbridge
Thursday, October 30, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:39 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Like many former Missouri players before him, Antwaun Bynum has found a home at Rock Bridge.

Bynum, who was an honorable mention All-Big 12 Conference defensive end for Missouri, used up his eligibility last season and looked for the next place to play.

It didn’t go the way he would have liked.

After contract talks with the Minnesota Vikings, Carolina Panthers and St. Louis Rams didn’t work, he looked to the Arena Football League and didn’t find anything there. Every time he looked somewhere, it seemed as if he was going the wrong way on a one-way street.

Not out of the game just yet

At Rock Bridge, though, almost everything is going correctly. Bynum has gone from sacking Big 12 quarterbacks to coaching the defensive line for the Bruins, who lost their first game Friday.

Rock Bridge (7-1) meets Hickman (5-3) at 7 p.m. Friday at Hickman.

It certainly didn’t hurt that Bynum had hours to complete to graduate at MU, and Rock Bridge served as a way to make money and stay around football.

“I’m not sure if you ever see coach in a player, but I know Antwaun loves kids and loves football,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said.

Bynum isn’t sure if he would like to go into coaching, and he said he will look at NFL and Arena Football League teams after the Bruins’ season ends. The AFL season begins in February.

Rock Bridge home to other MU alumn

Rock Bridge coach A. J. Ofodile said he got in contact with Bynum through Clarence Jones, another former MU player who is an assistant for the Bruins.

“I bumped into him once in the summer and mentioned to him that if he didn’t get picked up by anybody and he would be here for school, we’d like to have him out there,” Ofodile said.

Ofodile played tight end for the Tigers, and several other assistants played for Missouri. That includes Gary Anthony, who was a senior last season with Bynum.

“He brings a lot of fun to the table, playing with him and now coaching with him,” Anthony said.

A positive outlook

At Missouri, it was hard to catch Bynum without a smile on his face, even after the hardest of losses. He takes that same attitude to Rock Bridge.

“I have to catch myself sometimes,” Bynum said. “I feel sometimes like I’m not their coach, but I am their coach. I feel like more of a mentor. I catch myself jumping around with them sometimes, and I’m like, ‘Hey, hey, hey, I’m their coach.”‘

Bynum fell one sack short of Justin Smith’s season school record of 11 last season, and he also had 69 tackles and four forced fumbles. Sports Illustrated named him an honorable mention All American.

“Most of the guys consider it such an honor just to have him with the team,” Rock Bridge quarterback Chase Patton said.

Bynum’s experience is one thing, but the Bruins have benefited from Bynum’s excellence. Pinkel moved Bynum from linebacker to lineman in his sophomore year, and that is where Bynum flourished. After working hard through the move to become successful, he is hard on his players at Rock Bridge who don’t realize their potential.

“A lot of times, you get a different perspective from a guy that knows the position, that’s one thing,” Ofodile said. “But when you have a guy who was great at the position, you have a guy that has that kind of athletic ability, he brings that perspective, too.

“The guys respect him just based on what he’s done.”

It’s hard to argue with Bynum’s effect. Before giving up 28 points in the district opener to Jefferson City on Friday, the Bruins hadn’t given up more than 14 in a game this season. A better defense has helped a dynamic offense to make the Bruins one of the state’s most intimidating teams.

“He brings such a defensive presence,” Anthony said. “He knows the interior game. He’s just trying to teach them the kind of techniques we used at Mizzou, just getting them to play hard.”

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