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May 7, 2013

Recruiting Rewind: Tony Temple



May through July tends to be the slowest period in college football recruiting. Spring ball is over, camps haven't yet really begun, visits are less frequent. So, to fill the time during the slower period, PowerMizzou.com is reviving some recruitments past.

These pieces will be written from a first-person perspective of having covered the recruitment. Sort of a look behind the curtain based on what I remember, a combination of recalling the facts and some personal impressions.

Back in the summer of 2003, one of the very first high school football coaches I called was Rockhurst's Tony Severino. At the time, I knew next to nothing about covering recruiting. Honestly, I knew next to nothing about recruiting, period. Someone had asked me to name three players Missouri had signed in February. I couldn't name one.


So, when I was given a list of kids Missouri was recruiting, I had heard of exactly none of them. But I grew up in Kansas City, so of course I knew who Tony Severino was. I figured, hey, this will be a good starting point for my list of stories.

So I called Severino, having pretty much no idea who Tony Temple was. Now, if you're reading this, you will likely laugh at the fact that I didn't know him. Because anybody who followed recruiting at all--and anybody who followed Missouri high school football at all--knew who Tony Temple was in 2003.

Temple was, at the time, perhaps the top-rated running back in the country. He was the first true freshman ever to start at Rockhurst, which is (sorry, other schools) the most prestigious high school program in the Show-Me State. In February of his junior year, Rivals.com wrote a story asking if Temple was "the best ever in Kansas City?" He would finish his career with 6,295 yards and 85 touchdowns.

In that article, Temple listed a who's who of college football as his favorites: Texas, Miami, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oklahoma and Kansas State.

Missouri was the first school to offer Temple. They joined that list of favorites by the early summer. In June, he told PowerMizzou.com "There's no doubt I'm going to give the Tigers a look. They're in state and I have lived here all my life. They were the first school to offer me and they have a special place in my heart."

By the time his senior season started, Temple was the No. 7 running back in the country. On the first night college coaches were allowed to call senior prospects, Temple's phone rang from Missouri, Michigan, Kansas, Kansas State, Florida, Michigan State and LSU.

In the end, Temple took only two official visits: Missouri and Kansas State. Shortly before Christmas, Temple named a leader: ""My goodness it was unbelievable," Temple said of his official visit to Columbia. "They did everything right. It was so much fun hanging out with the other recruits, meeting the players, and watching practice. They say Missouri is on the rise and it is easy to see.


"All I can say is wow."

But Kansas State got the last crack.

"There are a lot of positives at both schools," he said after that trip. "I just need to find what's best. The coaches at both schools are really in tune with players and their needs. Both schools have a family atmosphere. They really want to be successful and are doing what they need to be a better team. Finding which place is a better situation for me, won't be an easy thing."

Temple set a decision for January 5th, approximately four weeks before National Signing Day. The announcement was going to be televised by Metro Sports. In many states, this was a common occurrence. In Missouri, recruiting was rarely important enough to merit a live broadcast.

Temple's announcement was my first real exposure to covering big-time recruiting. I distinctly remember getting on the message boards in the hour leading up to the announcement on Metro Sports. This was largely before live streaming and all. We had someone at the studio to cover the announcement, but those who weren't in Kansas City to watch the broadcast largely had to wait a few minutes for the news.

There were 222 people online when 6 o'clock hit. These days, that's about the number of people that are on when I wake up at 6 a.m. Back then, it was a big deal. It was my first inkling just how many people really cared about this stuff.


Temple chose Missouri that night, saying, "Before I made this decision, I prayed for an hour and a half. I want to do the right thing. I think the schools that recruited me did a really good job. I'm thankful they put me high on their list.

"I'm from the Show Me State. This is where I want to play. This where I'm from."


Temple ran for 2,552 yards and 22 touchdowns on 466 carries in his four years as a Tiger. His last game was the most memorable. With Arkansas refusing to let Chase Daniel and Mizzou's high-powered passing attack win the game, Temple ran for 281 yards and four touchdowns, both still Cotton Bowl records, in a 38-7 win. He left the field on the shoulders of teammates after scoring from 40 yards out on his final carry and was named the MVP of his final game.

Click here for high school highlights of Tony Temple.

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