When the third quarter ended, plenty of reasons existed to be discouraged.
Nebraska led 17-3. Missouri’s offense had sputtered in the red zone. A punting mishap had set up a Cornhuskers touchdown. Frustrations were high. Confidence was low.
Weakside guard Tony Palmer wasn’t ready to stop playing. When the quarter ended and the rest of the team trotted toward the sideline, Palmer sprinted to the front of the pack and began jumping and shouting encouragement to his teammates.
Although his effort went for naught, Palmer’s attempt to re-energize his team for the final quarter shows the way he plays.
“Being emotional and playing with my heart is something I try to do every game,” Palmer said. “If I can get guys excited and crazy about it, you just keep it going.”
That “keep-it-going” attitude helped Palmer become a leader on the Tigers’ offensive line. Palmer, a 6-foot-2, 320-pound junior, said this emotion represents a key aspect of running the ball.
“Playing with emotion is basically what the whole O-line is about,” Palmer said. “It’s about your attitude. It’s about the way you go out there. You think about dominating your man up front.”
To help himself work up the necessary energy, Palmer relies on one of his hobbies, music. Palmer, who plays the piano and sings at his church, said music allows him to be in the proper mental framework entering a game.
“I just like to stay real calm and cool before I go out there,” he said. “I like to listen to that heavy metal stuff right before I get on the field just so I can feel that energy.”
He said he typically listens to smooth jazz and gospel before moving to the heavy metal.
Palmer, though, said that music alone doesn’t prepare him for a game. Instead, like he had to do when learning to play the piano, Palmer relies upon practice and the lessons he has previously learned.
“I think (music) is a plus to the adrenaline,” he said. “Your preparation is also a key asset to the way you play. If you are well-prepared, you’re going to play with a lot more confidence, and things are going to work more in your favor.”
Please see Palmer, page 11
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Palmer, a native of Midwest City, Okla., hadn’t finalized his decision about where to play football before he made his official visit to Missouri. The visit and the presentation from the Missouri coaching staff, though, convinced him to turn down a scholarship offer from nearby Oklahoma, which had called while he was in Columbia.
“I told them, ‘Thanks, but no thanks,’ because coach (Gary) Pinkel and them came, and I saw a goal and a vision that they had for this program,” Palmer said. “I wanted to be a part of that. I wanted to be a part of rebuilding Missouri and starting a legacy and a new tradition around here.”
Pinkel made Palmer a foundation of the offensive line. He played significant time as a redshirt freshman, earning the team’s Interior Lineman of the Year award in 2002, and started 10 of the final 11 games last season.
“(He) just brings a certain intensity,” tackle Scott Paffrath said. “He’s a big guy that if he gets on a guy, he’s not going to get off. He can drive somebody all over the place. He’s probably one of the strongest guys out there.”
Paffrath also said Palmer provides a comic influence in the lockerroom, which makes him likeable to everyone.
“He brings a certain character, too,” Paffrath said. “He’s kind of a goofy guy. He’s just lovable. You can’t hate him; even when you get mad, you can’t hate him.”
Palmer’s steady performances earned him Honorable Mention honors to the All-Big 12 team last season. As a result, with Palmer to help indoctrinate them, Pinkel decided to start two redshirt freshmen on the line this season.
The offensive progress the Tigers achieved during Palmer’s first two years has slowed, in large part, because of periodic struggles to run the ball.
“It’s definitely difficult, but it all comes down to us up front,” he said. “We’ve got to get things going up front. We’ve got to dominate up front. If we start dominating up front, things start happening for us. As soon as we start doing that, points will start coming up, and things will start gelling together.
“You definitely can’t do anything more than point the finger at yourself, and I point the finger at myself … Definitely got to look toward the future and just realize what we’ve done wrong and continue to do better. You try to find a positive out of it and just get things rolling again.”