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February 15, 2014
Alex Ofodile knows Missouri.
His father, A.J. Ofodile, played tight end for the Tigers between 1990 and 1993. He lives in Columbia, a few miles down the road from Memorial Stadium and the Tigers' football facilities. He's grown up attending games and functions.
So when Alex Ofodile visits Mizzou, the task is to show him something new. He's now a four-star recruit, a wide receiver in demand by programs all across the nation.
During Saturday's Junior Day, Missouri's staff used two areas to show Ofodile something new. The first was receivers coach Pat Washington, a year into his job in Columbia.
"I got to know him a lot better," Ofodile said. "That helped a lot. We talked a lot, and it was about football and about personal stuff."
Ofodile said that's "one of the biggest factors" that will decide his future college team.
"If your position coach doesn't like you, you're going to have a real tough time getting on the field," he said bluntly.
The staff's second focus for "something new" for Ofodile was more of a message. During the visit, Missouri quarterback coach Andy Hill separated Ofodile, Drew Lock and Hale Hentges from the rest of the group. Lock, a quarterback from Lee's Summit, and Hentges, a tight end from Jefferson City, make up the top three players in the state of Missouri for 2015, along with Ofodile.
Hill took the trio to Missouri's wall of All-Americans, former players who were consensus award winners during their career in Columbia. He pointed out names like Paul Christman, Roger Werhli, Kellen Winslow and John Clay.
More recent names like Justin Smith. Martin Rucker. Jeremy Maclin. Chase Coffman.
All-Americans at Missouri, who were Missourians, as well. All from the Show-Me State.
"Most of the All-Americans they've had are from Missouri," Ofodile said. "He said if they could get us, we could bring Mizzou a national championship."
Ofodile, Lock and Hentges are important because they're the top three players in state. But they might be more important -- maybe the most important top-three players in decades -- because of their relationship to Missouri. For Ofodile and Lock, it's about history. Both families are tied to Missouri and the football program, as Lock's father also played for the Tigers.
For Ofodile and Hentges, it's about proximity. They're top-ranked players in the Tigers' geographic backyard.
Perhaps most importantly, the three are all friends. Ofodile said he met Lock and Hentges in eighth grade through the AAU basketball circuit. Now, the three are national football recruits.
The possibility of playing together is something real and discussed.
"We talked about that a bunch today," Ofodile said. "We talked about what places we like, besides Missouri. We talked about what we liked about Missouri.
"It was a pretty good day."
Even if there is a draw to staying home, to following his father's footsteps, Ofodile is a national recruit at his core. One that's savvy to the recruiting game, because his dad went through a similar -- if not as scrutinized -- process.
More visits are on the tap, the dates and schools blending together for a recruit sought after by many.
"My next one is March 8th at Tennesee," Ofodile begins. "February 28th I go to Ole Miss. March 28th I go to Iowa. June 6th is Penn State. Well, April 26th is Michigan State, and April 12th is Nebraska."
His dad told him to visit all the schools that interest him -- "He doesn't want me to pick a school with something being unknown. He wants me to pick a sure-thing," Ofodile said.
All this will eventually lead to a decision. Ofodile hopes it's by August, but even he admits the deluge of offers has taken him off guard.
"I don't know if that's going to happen," he adds.
He'll get to know more programs. The one he knows best will continue to show him something new.