UPDATE: Called after 96 votes. West wins in a relatively close one, 54%-45%.
It's Mizzou 25, the tournament to decide the best, most influential, most likable Mizzou athlete of the past 25 years! It's like Who's Now or The Greatest Highlight, only, uhh, cool.
Mizzou 25 is set up in four 8-athlete regions: the Norm Stewart Region (basketball), the Larry Smith Region (football), the Joann Rutherford Region (all sports), and the Spider Region (fan favorites). Here's the Mizzou 25 bracket in all its resplendent glory.
One region left, and then it's on to the Sweet 16! Here are the matchups for the Spider Regional...for this regional, vote with your heart, not your head.
3/10: Jed Frost (Basketball) vs Pig Brown (Football)
3/11: Devin West (Football) vs Brian Grawer (Basketball)
3/12: Demontie Cross (Football) vs Christi Myers (Volleyball)
3/13: Mark Atkins (Basketball) vs Matt Pell (Wrestling)
Devin West vs Brian Grawer
|Your Play-In Game winner.
The Boy: For his first three seasons at Mizzou, Devin West was part of a four-headed rushing monster in the backfield (along with Corby Jones, Brock Olivo, and Ernest Blackwell RIP). He was like a colt at first--you could see an unbelievable amount of athletic ability in his 6'2, 220-pound frame, but it took him a while to get his legs to do what his brain told them. He was one step away from returning a kickoff for TD about 16 different times, but never quite pulled it off. Against Nebraska in '97, he broke a return out toward midfield, made the last guy in his way miss, then tripped over his own feet. You could see a world of potential, but it hadn't quite been harnessed yet. He had still managed 1,376 rushing yards the first three years of his tenure at Mizzou, but you could tell he had more to give.
Then came his senior season. All I really need to say about 1998: 32 carries, 319 yards.
Actually, let's say more. When Corby Jones was severely limited due to turf toe halfway through '98, West began carrying more and more of the load. Larry Smith's offense positively had to have a strong rushing threat to be able to throw the ball, and with Corby limping, Blackwell and Ron Janes gone at fullback, and no proven option in the backup tailback role (Devaughn Black and Zain Gilmore combined for just 180 yards), it was all on West. And he responded with a crazy 1,578 yards (143.5 per game) and 17 TDs (and an 18th via pass reception). That year, he almost matched what Corby produced running and throwing. We think back on the mid- to late-'90s as the Corby Years, and if we think of a second player, it's likely Brock Olivo. But the person most responsible for what was then Mizzou's winningest season in 15 years (and first bowl win in 17) was #32.
Michael Atchison: Many supremely talented players have worn the Missouri basketball uniform, but for years, the greatest symbol of the program was the hard working player who made the most of his ability. We called them "Norm players," and no one exemplified this ethic better than Brian Grawer. Grawer was a four-year starter who provided invaluable stability and coaching on the floor during the transition from Hall-of-Famer Norm Stewart to inexperienced Quin Snyder. A dead-eye shooter and superior ball-handler and passer, Grawer’s greatest gift was his judgment, the ability to know what to do – and what not to do – on and off the floor.
As a sophomore, Grawer helped Coach Stewart win in his last visit to Allen Field House by scoring 18 points in 71-63 upset of the Jayhawks. Then, in Quin Snyder’s first two seasons, Grawer was the ultimate team player, gladly changing his role to accommodate talents like Keyon Dooling and Kareem Rush. Grawer’s impact on his younger teammates was noted by Snyder, who called him one of the best leaders Snyder had ever seen up close. That leadership was especially valuable during Grawer’s senior season. With Rush sidelined by injury and Clarence Gilbert working through discipline issues, Grawer held the team together and led the Tigers to a third straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Cucumber-cool in the midst of Snyder’s offensive chaos, one of Grawer’s finest performances came in typically understated fashion. Everyone remembers the Tigers’ four-overtime victory over Iowa State in 2001, when Gilbert and Rush combined to take 67 shots and score 75 points. Few, though, recall the game-saving and uncannily efficient effort from Grawer that day. He scored 12 points, making all three of his field goal tries (including two from behind the arc), and going 6 for 6 from the free throw line.
I must say, I usually have a pretty good idea of who will win these matchups...at least I have through most of the first round. I have absolutely no clue about this one.