Barrett Banister had not scored a touchdown since the state championship game of his senior year in high school. It was in 2016.
That finally changed Saturday.
Against West Virginia, Missouri quarterback Kelly Bryant found Banister in the front of the end zone before the end of the first half. It ended a three-year wait for Banister, a redshirt sophomore. He was on the scout team in 2017 and played in 2018 as a walk-on, making a few important catches — none of which went for scores.
It made Saturday’s touchdown all the more meaningful for Banister, who is now on scholarship.
“It was a cool feeling,” he said. “I just remember tons of guys around me on the field, patting me on the head and all that.”
It’s a moment, Banister said, he will never forget.
The same can be said for many other Missouri athletes and their first TDs, no matter how many touchdowns they’ve scored in their collegiate careers. Each player takes a different journey to reach the moment Banister enjoyed against the Mountaineers, but no matter how it comes together or when it happens, it’s always special.
Running back Larry Rountree III didn’t have to wait long for his first collegiate touchdown. He scored in his first game as a Tiger. The touchdown contributed to a 72-43 victory over Missouri State on Sept. 2, 2017, when Rountree entered the game with fewer than seven minutes left.
After the two-yard score, he remembers celebrating with former Missouri running back Ish Witter.
“I was tired, man,” Rountree said. “That’s the one where (offensive coordinator Josh) Heupel was here, so we were running the quick offense. We were running like every play — 33, 34, 44, all run plays.”
Rountree’s first score was not nearly as necessary to the outcome of the game as wide receiver Jalen Knox’s first collegiate touchdown was.
Knox, a true freshman in 2018, grabbed his first TD off a 59-yard pass from Drew Lock against Purdue in a game the Tigers went on to win 40-37.
“It was my first game really playing and actually getting to show what I could do,” Knox said. “The Purdue game, it felt good giving that type of energy to our team.”
Knox remembered the feeling, if not the particulars, as he talked about it after practice this past Tuesday.
“It was all really kind of a blur,” he said.
Nothing that special outside of the score itself, Knox added.
Then, redshirt senior Johnathon Johnson interrupted.
“It was special to me,” Johnson said, tongue somewhat pressed against his cheek.
Johnson’s first score was also special in its own way, but also a bit stressful. He stood back awaiting an Eastern Michigan punt in 2016 ... and then muffed it.
Instead of falling on the ball, Johnson picked it up. 54 yards later, he’d scored his first touchdown.
“It was a sigh of relief because I know how much Coach (Cornell) Ford always preached to us that if we drop a punt return, how crucial it is to fall on it just so we can recover the ball,” Johnson said. “But I knew I had room to run after the catch, so I just picked it up and tried to do what I do best.”
Quarterback Kelly Bryant’s first touchdown also came in a blowout – a 58-0 victory over Miami while Bryant was a backup quarterback at Clemson in 2015.
The score came not via his arm but his legs. Bryant rushed for his first and second collegiate touchdowns against the Hurricanes.
Looking back on it as a graduate transfer at Missouri, Bryant will never forget many of his teammates tackling him in the end zone.
“You work so hard and it finally happens, so you are taking deep breaths,” Bryant said. “‘Wow, I just scored a touchdown in college football.’”
Supervising editor is Michael Knisley.