The path that led 2014 Indianapolis (Ind.) Lawrence Central linebacker Brandon Lee to Missouri is not a typical one. Generally when a recruit cuts a team from consideration and leaves that team out of his top five, that is were it stays. Even if the school somehow manages to get back in the group being considered late in the game, like Missouri did with Lee, it does not typically become the school of choice.
The time line for Lee and Missouri starts back in early April, when he unofficially visited Mizzou. That visit got Mizzou into Lee's top nine, which he announced via twitter on June 14. About six weeks later, on July 27, Mizzou was eliminated from contention as Lee cut his list of schools to five. The top five that day were Virginia Tech, California, Louisville, Oregon and Northwestern.
"At that moment, I wasn't really thinking about [Missouri]", explained the number six ranked player from Indiana. "But then a lot of people started questioning and saying Missouri is looking pretty good. All you would hear, even in Indiana, is people talking about Missouri and how well they were doing at the beginning of the season."
"When I came on my unofficial visit back in April, I actually liked everything that I saw. From the coaches to the campus to the atmosphere with them being in the SEC. As I looked back to see how their season went, it didn't go so well last year. I mean, everybody wants to play for a winner and nobody wants to lose," Lee continued. "When they came out this season really hot I said, 'If they're playing that good I must have overlooked something'."
The perception of Missouri really started to change for Lee around the time of Mizzou's win at Georgia. That day he tweeted this.
By then, Lee had already begun to reconsider why he eliminated Mizzou.
"I got to thinking why did I take them out of my top list of schools? Then I thought over everything and remembered I had a great time on my unofficial visit. How much of the campus I enjoyed, the team atmosphere and the coaches atmosphere. I thought back and decided I should give Missouri another shot," said the natino's No. 31 outside linebacker.
Lee's decision to officially visit Mizzou led to this cryptic tweet, that we now know was about Mizzou.
"I looked back into Missouri and when I started speaking to them again they were very interested in me. They were very excited to be a school I was considering," he continued. "So then I scheduled the official visit. On the official visit I saw a lot of things that I had ended up missing out on while on the unofficial visit. It sparked my mind."
Despite being eliminated from contention for about ten weeks, Cornell Ford continued to maintain contact with Lee. Ford, who is Lee's recruiting coordinator, did not apply too much pressure, but did make sure Missouri was not completely forgotten.
"[Missouri] still stayed in contact, but they didn't contact me as hard. They still were calling and we would talk a little bit here and there. Later on, around a couple weeks before I said I wanted them back in my top schools, it picked back up a lot and we got to talking a lot more again," said Lee.
Once Missouri was back among the top schools for Lee, they were still not given much of a chance by most that follow recruiting. Making up ten weeks of full on recruiting by Virginia Tech, Louisville and California seemed insurmountable. In the end though, Missouri offered too much for Lee to pass up.
"The thing that made Missouri stick out from Virginia Tech and the other finalists, is its medical school. Missouri has a great program for what I want to become, an orthopedic surgeon. They have the Orthopedic Institute on campus that works with Missouri students and athletes. That part of the medical field interested me a lot," he explained.
"Them being in the SEC is also great. I mean that is the best football there is in college football, in my opinion. Then there is that crazy statistic they have with them producing the most first round picks behind Alabama. That was an intriguing statistic that I liked. Last thing is just the atmosphere and the coaching staff," continued the 6-foot-2, 203 pound prospect. "Being there on my official visit, I got a chance to talk with a lot more players. I spent time with them and I fit in with those players pretty well. It's a very diverse group of guys and I like that."
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Leading up to the November 8 decision, most analysts could not seem to get a good read on where Lee would end up. There was a lot of talk of Virginia Tech and Louisville with a sprinkling of Missouri. Even Lee did not know where he would continue his education and football career until the night before his announcement.
"I knew two days before I was going to commit that [Missouri] was pretty high. Then the night before I committed I came to the conclusion that it was going to be Missouri, so I gave them a call. I talked with Coach [Dave] Stec[kel] and Coach [Gary] Pink[el] on a conference call and I notified them. Coach Stec had told me before I left my official visit to practice these eight words, 'Coach Stec, I want to be a Tiger'. When I called I told him I actually had eleven words for him and he got really nervous, but I told him, 'Coach Stec and Coach Pink, I want to become a Tiger'. They flipped out about it," Lee explained.
Lee's senior season did not turn out how he had hoped, coming to an end in a loss to Warren Central in the first round of the playoffs. He will be an early enroll for Missouri, with his last day of high school being December 20. He will then report to Missouri a few days before the rest of the students arrive from winter break.
Lee will be in Columbia for the Tigers game versus Texas A&M and he is expecting Cornell Ford to visit him at his high school shortly after the SEC Championship game. In the meantime, Lee will focus on academics and working out with an eye on early playing time.
"Right now I'm schooling and working out. Our strength coach is a great strength coach. I'm trying to get my body ready for the transition from high school football to SEC football. I'm working really hard to get my body prepared for that so I can possibly come in and compete for a spot," he said. "It'd be a blessing to come in and play right away my freshman year. If my body is ready for it, I believe that I can come in and take someones spot. Not to be cocky or anything, but I think I can come in and do that. If they want me to play special teams or redshirt, I'm fine with either one."
The path was far from typical, but for Lee and Missouri, the end justified the means. Lee plans to enroll at Mizzou in January.