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February 7, 2012

From regional to national


It's a phrase that makes some sports writers cringe, but former Missouri football players see it everywhere they go.

Over the past year, athletic director Mike Alden has made a point to emphasize the "Mizzou Brand." Just Sunday, in a letter to fans following Missouri's 74-71 win over to Kansas, Alden talked about the brand in relation to the national exposure Missouri received over the past week:

"In each of these examples, we have an opportunity to present our 'brand'," Alden wrote. "Not just the black and gold, but those characteristics of Mizzou that make us such a special community."

Whether you see that turn-of-phrase as marketing talk or not, it hasn't gone unnoticed by current NFL Tigers. On Saturday, nine former Missouri football players returned to Columbia to be honored at halftime. All nine players left Columbia between 2008 and 2010, and were key members during the most successful run in Missouri football history.

One such player is current Atlanta Falcons' linebacker Sean Weatherspoon. After living in Georgia for the past two years, Weatherspoon said Missouri's national recognition is obvious.

"That's what we're really looking for at Mizzou," Weatherspoon said. "You've gotta get it out there. We've been regional, but it's time for the whole country to know about Mizzou. You can definitely sense it, because obviously the basketball team's been doing great, the football team's been doing great. There's a lot of great things goung on around here, and we're going to keep it that way."

Missouri has had plenty of opportunities to make waves on a national scale over the past six months. First, there was the move to the SEC that dominated headlines. Then, it was the signing of the nation's top football recruit, Dorial Green-Beckham. And, in front of a national television audience, Missouri's thrilling win over Kansas kept the Tigers in the national conversation.

Despite the rise of the "Mizzou Brand" from regional to national, Weatherspoon said there's no danger of Missouri getting too big for its britches.

"It doesn't feel any different at all (to come back)," Weatherspoon said. "It's still family. There's still a lot of love in here, obviously, as you can see."

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