COLUMBIA — Moments after his 44-yard touchdown run on Saturday, Missouri running back Tony Temple stood on the sideline and, with a look of astonishment, asked, “Did that really just happen?”
Five days earlier, Temple’s grandmother died after a long battle with cancer. With the funeral scheduled for the same day as the Texas A&M game, he wasn’t even sure he would play. To go out and have one of his best games as Tiger was almost incomprehensible for him.
“I can’t say it was easy,” he said. “There were times when I was on the sideline asking what time it was because I didn’t want the time to pass and I’d be stuck here and miss everything.”
Temple had always been extremely close to his grandma. They were together throughout his adolescence, and she was his biggest supporter. Even as her sickness worsened, she continued to listen to his games on the radio.
After she died, Temple spent the week traveling back and forth from Columbia to his home in Kansas City. On Tuesday, he mourned. On Wednesday, he practiced. And so on.
When it came to Saturday’s game, he struggled with what to do. He wanted to be there for his teammates, but he had to say goodbye to his grandma.
“I don’t want to hurt my team, ever,” he said. “But as much as I love my guys here, I only have one grandma.”
Gary Pinkel and his coaching staff have a policy. Family first. Football second. Always. Just let us know what’s up, they ask.
Temple did, and the coaches, together with Temple’s family, worked on a plan so that he could play and still make it in time for the funeral. If that meant getting a private jet, so be it.
“It just showed that the coaches really care about their players,” Temple said. “We always talk about family. If this isn’t a perfect example, I don’t know what is.”
Only a few hours after his touchdown, Temple stood near his grandmother’s gravesite. The men at the funeral wore suits. The women, dresses. Temple wore his MU warm-ups.
But his family didn’t care. They were thankful he made it.
“Everything worked out perfect,” he said. “I couldn’t ask for anything else.”