It was what everybody wanted.
Missouri fans, players and coaches wanted Rock Bridge quarterback Chase Patton to become Brad Smith’s heir apparent. In the end, the feeling was mutual.
After months of speculation, Patton gave Missouri coach Gary Pinkel an oral commitment Sunday morning. Patton can’t make it official until Feb. 6; the first day recruits can sign a letter of intent with their school of choice.
“When I went on this visit I just felt that comfort level at Missouri,” Patton said. “It just felt like the right place.”
Patton, a 6-foot-4, 205-pound senior with a strong right arm, picked MU from a group that included Tennessee, Iowa and UCLA. He finished his senior season with eye-popping numbers, throwing for 2,622 yards and 30 touchdowns on his way to earning Gatorade’s Missouri Player of the Year honors.
Patton took his official visit to Missouri this past weekend after visiting UCLA, Iowa and Tennessee. Many people thought he was leaning toward the Volunteers after his visit to Knoxville and some said the same after he went to Iowa City, but Pinkel did what the Vols’ Phillip Fulmer and the Hawkeyes’ Kirk Ferentz couldn’t: He didn’t let Patton leave without saying yes.
The weekend was perfect for Patton. He joined a large group of the state’s top recruits on official visits and took in the program as he had never been able to before.
He spent time with the coaches and watched the Tigers enthusiastic practice Saturday morning. More importantly, Patton and the other recruits got to spend time with the players.
The recruits and the team sat down to a dinner in the pressbox at Memorial Stadium on Saturday night.
Patton said he liked what he heard in a discussion with the coaching staff and by Saturday night he had made his decision.
After talking with his friends and family, Patton went to a final meeting with Pinkel on Sunday morning, where he broke the news to the staff. The staff let out jubilant cheers, and Patton knew he was at home.
“All along I’ve been saying that staying at home wasn’t that big of a factor,” Patton said. “But now that I’ve made a decision, it just makes it that much more comfortable knowing that this is my hometown.
“It’s kind of special to get the chance to play where I’ve grown up.”
Pinkel is 100-percent in recruiting in Columbia. Van Alexander, Patton’s teammate, committed to the Tigers in December of 2002.
Alexander, who has known Patton since youth soccer leagues, also took his official visit to MU this past weekend and has been one of the Tigers’ best recruiters in the pursuit of his good friend.
“It’s awesome,” Alexander said. “He is one of the highest-rated quarterbacks in the nation, but he is also one of my best friends. I’m really excited about this.”
When Patton puts on the black and gold in August, he will be stepping into what might be the perfect situation.
Smith will be a junior, leaving Patton a year to redshirt and an additional year to learn from Smith before he would presumably compete for the starting job in his redshirt sophomore year.
Pinkel and other Missouri coaches and players can’t comment specifically on recruits until they have received the recruit’s signed commitment.
Rock Bridge coach A.J. Ofodile said Missouri is getting more than a great football player; it is getting a great person.
“He will bring a lot of dedication, a lot of class and a lot of work ethic to the program,” Ofodile said. “They have a lot of guys like that in their program already. He is going to bring what every student-athlete should bring to a school.”
Patton can now turn his attention to being one of the Tigers’ best recruiters.
Top in-state talent such as Rockhurst tailback Tony Temple and Hazelwood Central’s Nick Patterson were also on official visits. Patton made sure they knew he wanted them to join him before they went home.
After a long wait to make a decision, Patton’s journey has come full circle. Weekends spent traveling the country are over, his phone won’t ring constantly, and he can enjoy his final semester of high school.
For Chase Patton, his idea of football heaven is where he has been all along. He just didn’t know it until Sunday.