Freshmen use one another to quell fears

Recruits push each other to improve playing.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:38 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 9, 2008

When some out-of-state freshmen enter college, they often worry about not knowing anyone or having friends at their new home.

When Mack Breed and Aaron Saunders arrived at Missouri, they didn’t have that fear. They entered with each other.

Breed, a quarterback, and Saunders, an offensive lineman on the Missouri football team, have known each other since they were 6 and have developed a close relationship.

“Actually a lot of our coaches describe it as boyfriend and boyfriend because we’re always together,” Saunders said. “Brothers for life type of deal. We’ve been friends for so long.”

Breed echoed Saunders’ sentiments, saying they are “best friends.”

“We’ve always been there for each other,” Breed said. “We help each other out through hard times as most friends do.”

The two met and played football together as youngsters and their relationship continued to grow as they earned starring roles on the football team at John Jay High in San Antonio. Breed, who was also an All-State center fielder at John Jay, orally committed in September without making an official visit to Missouri.

After Breed, 6 feet 2, 195 pounds, committed, the Tigers continued to recruit Saunders. Both said Breed didn’t actively try to influence Saunders, but Breed said in the back of his mind he hoped Saunders would join him.

“I was kind of hoping he would come here so we could help each other out, study and all that stuff,” Breed said.

Although Breed removed himself from the Saunders recruitment, Saunders said the insurance of a friendly face offered him an added comfort.

“It had a big influence on me coming here,” Saunders said. “It would be a lot easier to be here having a friend with you than being in your first year being kind of alone as a new guy.”

Saunders chose to attend Missouri based on a number of football-related factors not including Breed’s decision. He said he chose Missouri based on the coaches, players and team philosophy, but having Breed around wouldn’t be a bad thing.

“He just told me if I wanted to come he would be happy to have me come here with him,” Saunders said. “Missouri ended up winning because they had the best combination of all and then I would have a good friend coming here. Got a big bonus.”

Having a friend has been a benefit to both, for they have struggled somewhat in preseason practices. Breed will likely redshirt because he is behind quarterbacks Brad Smith, Brandon Coleman and Chase Patton.

“(My preseason has been) kind of sloppy,” Breed said. “I’m getting better as we go. There’s a lot to learn, so I’m coming on slow.”

Although the Tigers lost three starters from their offensive line, they have filled those gaps with returning players. In addition, Saunders, 6-7, 290 pounds, has struggled with his conditioning.

“(The preseason) could have been better,” Saunders said. “I’ve been working hard everyday to get myself back in shape, trying to learn plays. I’m still screwing some things up. I’m getting better everyday and that’s kind of the goal here.”

Saunders and Breed often use time after practice to recollect what happened and commiserate about any problems they had.

“We can go back to the dorm room and talk about how not good we are compared to what we were in high school and what we need to improve on,” Saunders said. “It’s just nice to have someone to share that with. He’s going through the same thing.”

Without Breed, Saunders said his life wouldn’t be quite the same.

“It would be a sense of kind of being alone,” Saunders said. “That would be tough to go through because he’s my roommate and all that stuff.

“I’d have to have someone I didn’t know and I wouldn’t know if I could trust him or not. I’m just glad he’s here with me, glad we’re together.”

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