Missouri defensive back Lareno Seymour could not help but give Chris Brooks, a former high school teammate, one piece of recruiting advice when colleges came calling.
“He just told me, ‘Man, don’t go to Illinois,’ ” Brooks said.
Brooks, a junior wide receiver at Hazelwood East, followed that advice and committed to Missouri on April 19.
Brooks is one of three in-state and six total commitments for the Tigers’ 2005 recruiting class.
Missouri recruiting analyst Jon Kirby said this early success shows how far the Tigers have come under coach Gary Pinkel.
“Three years ago, it would have surprised me,” Kirby said. “Now, it’s almost expected.”
Brooks is 6 feet 4, runs a 4.5 40-yard dash and had 522 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a junior.
“He’s got unbelievable athletic ability,” Hazelwood East coach Corey Johnson said.
Johnson said Brooks’ toughness and willingness to block downfield are just as impressive as his statistics.
“He really enjoys the physical aspect of the game,” Johnson said.
Kirby said Brooks is one of the three best players in the state, and national analyst Tom Lemming lists him among the nation’s top 100 players.
Brooks said Cornell Ford, Missouri running backs coach, and not former teammates such as Seymour persuaded him to play for the Tigers.
“He’s a really good recruiter,” Brooks said. “I like the way he talked to me; I like the way he treated me.”
Schools including Southern California, Miami and Florida State showed interest in Brooks, but he said looking at those teams’ rosters helped him pick Missouri.
“I wasn’t afraid to travel, but you look at teams like Florida or Florida State and 75 percent of their team is from Florida,” Brooks said. “So I figured, ‘Why not stay here?’ I want to start a trend.”
Kearney linebacker Brock Christopher is another prospect who decided to stay in Missouri, committing to MU on April 8.
Christopher is 6-3, 215 pounds, runs a 4.6 40-yard dash and had interest from Ohio State and Kansas State, among others. He is a four-year starter on the football, baseball and basketball teams.
“He’s got it all,” Kearney coach Mark Thomas said.
Thomas said Christopher also has outstanding character.
“He’s the type of kid most parents dream of having their son or daughter end up being,” Thomas said.
Kurtis Gregory, a Santa Fe offensive/defensive lineman, is the Tigers’ other in-state commitment. Gregory is 6-6, 287 and had 66 tackles and 12 sacks last year, but might end up playing offense in college.
Santa Fe coach Jarrod Borland said Gregory has the ability to play early at either position for the Tigers.
“As soon as they’re ready for him to play, he can contribute,” Borland said.
Derrian Duncan, a College of Siskiyous (Calif.) cornerback, and Coffeyville Community College’s Emmanuel Phillips and Darnell Terrell are Missouri’s other commitments.
Terrell and Phillips signed with Missouri out of high school and couldn’t attend because of academic problems.