Justin Smith is arguably the best player to come through Missouri in decades and undoubtedly had one of the most unique recruiting stories. Smith pledged a verbal commitment to Missouri shortly after his junior year at Jefferson City. And that was it. No visits. No wavering. No nothing other than a quick trip north on Highway 63.
"It's close, and both of my parents went there, so I figured I might as well,'' Smith told the Tribune way back in June 1997. At the time, Smith was already a 239-pound two-way standout for the Jays, playing defensive end and tight end. David Smith, Justin's dad, recalled having piles of letters from every school in the country, but Smith didn't care. His mind was made up. And that was that.
A few days before national signing day, the Smiths got a call. (I'd never heard this story until David shared it last week.) A guy named Steve was on the phone, calling from Florida. Steve Spurrier. [...]
"I know we’ve never called you or contacted you," Smith recalled Spurrier saying. "And we know you gave a verbal to Mizzou. And we know you've got like 23 relatives who graduated from Mizzou and that it's only 29 miles away from home. We don't want to harass you on your decision, but our All-American tight end just went down with a torn ACL and we think you can come in here and play."