Tony Temple wanted to do it three weeks ago, but he made it worth the wait for coach Gary Pinkel and Missouri on Monday night.
Temple, the No. 7 running back in the nation according to Rivals.com, went on a sports show on Kansas City television and sat in front of five hats: Missouri, Kansas State, Tennessee, Michigan and Southern California.
Temple picked up the MU hat and put it on. Moments later he was on the phone with Tigers’ wide receiver coach Andy Hill breaking the news.
“Coach Hill, I want to be a Tiger,” Temple said.
Temple can’t sign his national letter of intent until the signing period begins in early February. For the time being, his commitment looks like an important one for Missouri for many reasons.
More important than the talent Temple brings could be his value to Missouri in terms of recruiting in the state. Pinkel has said many times that repairing the huge breakdown between MU and high schools around the state has been one of his biggest tasks.
Pinkel has also said that it is his staff’s goal to get 90-percent of the best players from around the state every year. Temple’s commitment puts the Tigers in position to reach that goal this season.
Following Rock Bridge quarterback Chase Patton’s commitment on Dec. 12, MU’s recruiting success has snowballed.
Temple is Missouri’s 22nd oral commitment for the class of 2004. Of that group, 15 are from Missouri, including the best player in Kansas City (Temple), St. Louis (quarterback Darrell Jackson) and Columbia (Patton).
If Pinkel can convince Hazelwood Central athlete Nick Patterson to choose the Tigers over Ohio State, among others, he might have the best recruiting class in Missouri football history.
Temple visited MU the same weekend Patton committed. Temple almost joined Patton in committing that weekend, but his family wanted him to take his visit to Kansas State the following weekend before saying yes to Missouri.
Patton said it is exciting to know he will have a talented player like Temple joining him for the next four or five years.
“There is a saying that a quarterback’s best friend is a good running back,” Patton said. “There’s a lot of talent already there, but it is nice to have one in the same class like Tony.”
With 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash and a penchant for making tacklers miss, Temple brings MU a threat in the backfield capable of scoring from anywhere on the field.
Temple started as a freshman for Rockhurst and finished his rookie season with 1,105 yards rushing, helping the team to a state championship. Missouri took an immediate interest and gave Temple a scholarship offer early in the recruiting process.
By the time he closed his high school career, Temple amassed 5,319 yards, including a massive junior season when he put up 2,034 yards and 35 touchdowns.
Injuries prevented a big final season for Temple, but that didn’t keep the nation’s best programs from recruiting him.
Temple will join what could be a crowded backfield next season. Zack Abron’s eligibility is up, but the Tigers return Damien Nash, sophomore transfer David Richard and redshirt freshman Marcus Woods as part of a dazzling group of runners that combine speed and power.
Nash is the likely starter and Richard could move to linebacker. Pinkel is impressed with Woods, so Temple will have his work cut out for him if he wants to play right away.
For now, none of that matters to Missouri. The talent that Pinkel is accumulating is a good problem to have and with Temple on board and the possibility of Patterson joining next, Pinkel’s goal of 90 percent might seem small.
“When I committed I tried to make an effort to say that if I am going to do this I would like to have one big class and have everyone stay in the state,” Patton said. “This class could be really good, but we all have to prove ourselves and progress together and we could get something great.”