It sounded like a storybook tale.
A star high school quarterback spurns offers from national powerhouses to stay in his hometown and lead the local football program into the national spotlight.
That’s how Chase Patton’s college football career at Missouri was supposed to unfold. The Rock Bridge High School star envisioned himself taking over after the Brad Smith Era and bringing the Tigers to national prominence.
The reality of his story is well known in Columbia. A different Chase followed Smith, and Patton was relegated to a backup role, never seeing meaningful playing time in his three years on the roster.
After a strong spring showing, Patton is seeing increased playing time with the first-team offense in the first week of official practice. Coach Gary Pinkel said the redshirt junior has looked calm and confident in the pocket, finally trusting his offensive line and consistently finding the open receiver for the first time in his collegiate career. While Patton and Pinkel both agree that Patton’s success in practice is because of three years of studying the system, Patton said there may be another reason.
On May 20, Patton married Ashley Guy, his girlfriend of six years. Patton said his marriage has made him more relaxed in all aspects of his life.
“There’s more responsibility now that I’m married,” the quarterback said after Thursday’s morning practice. “I feel like I’m more on top of things, and maybe that followed onto the football field.”
The two met at Jefferson Junior High School in eighth grade, and began dating a year later.
“He sat in front of me in science class in eighth grade,” Ashley Patton said. “We had a lot of group projects together, so that’s how we started talking.”
The couple attended Rock Bridge, and followed each other to Missouri. Ashley Patton is now a senior psychology major who plans to attend dental school along with her husband. She said she’s always been amazed at how her husband leaves the stress of football on the field.
“I think that being married has helped him,” Ashley Patton said. “He’s more settled and more relaxed now. He had a great spring, and he’s really internally motivated to do well this year.”
Chase Patton said his priorities in life aren’t what the public would expect from a college quarterback, but that has helped him deal with problems in his college career.
“I’ve got what they call an ‘I’m third’ attitude,” he said. “My faith is the first priority, then my family and wife and others, and then everything else, football included.”
His wife says that while he puts importance in things other than football, Chase Patton is as dedicated to the team as any other player.
“It’s still a priority for him,” Ashley
Patton said. “I know when he said he’s a witness (in Christ) on the team, he had a hard time with some people. But he knows that he’s at Mizzou for a reason, and that’s football.”
His dedication to the team was obvious on Thursday. After morning practice, Chase Patton stayed on the field, playing catch, until a coach’s yell of “quarterbacks, let’s go!” brought him into the locker room.
Pinkel said the performances of Chase Daniel and Chase Patton have left him confident in the upcoming season.
“Some players just take longer to develop,” Pinkel said of Chase Patton. “I’ve seen lots of quarterbacks who weren’t ready to play their first year.”
When asked if the marriage has helped Chase Patton mature, Pinkel let out a laugh.
“You’d have to ask his wife that,” he said.
While Daniel has established himself with a record-setting 2006 year, Ashley Patton said the definition of success is different for her husband.
“His patience is going to pay off,” she said. “The way he respects everyone is going to pay off. He’ll be able to leave here with pride, because he did everything the right way.”
• Linebacker Van Alexander strained his hamstring in practice Thursday, though Pinkel said it isn’t serious. Junior Steve Redmond took many of Alexander’s repetitions at strong-side linebacker on the first-team defense.
• Thursday’s afternoon practice was shortened to an hour. After the team went through agility and special teams drills, the players took buses to the MU Student Recreation Complex for an afternoon of relaxing in the pool.