Not every sports year gets to be the best and most enjoyable. This year has seen tribulations and turnover off the playing field and not just a ton of wins on it.
But as the Missouri athletic department prepares to replace its longtime football coach just months after it replaced its athletic director, there are, and will always be, reasons to be thankful. Here are some of mine. Share yours in comments. We let this tradition drop, and we shouldn't have.
Kentrell Brothers. Six years ago, Missouri managed to wring an 8-5 season out of a flawed, young team, in part because the schedule wasn't incredibly demanding and in part because of Danario Alexander, who provided us with the possibly single best year of receiving that we'll ever see.
This year has been tough, but we've seen Kentrell Brothers break through in a way that few Missouri defenders ever have. He's approaching Missouri tackle records, but he's also made plays -- 9.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks, two picks, two breakups, a forced fumble, a fumble recover, THREE DAMN BLOCKED PUNTS.
Brothers has been transcendent. And like Danario, his team's struggles have punished him and left him out of the running for an individual national award (the Biletnikoff for Danario, the Butkus for Kentrell). That will never stop being annoying, but it only means so much because we get to remember how he played this year regardless. Screw what everybody else thinks.
Barry Odom and Craig Kuligowski. For all we know, both or neither of these men will be coaching for Missouri next season. But the duo has been absolutely magnificent in guiding a defense with an impossibly young line to great success in an otherwise tough season. Brothers has been amazing, but if the line couldn't hold up as it has, even without Harold Brantley and (in November) Terry Beckner Jr., then Brothers would be taking on too many blocks to make plays. The line has both freed up the linebackers and made plays of its own. And it's basically all returning next year.
Pat Ivey. You hear so much about coaches wanting to turn student-athletes into "men," but few walk the walk like Ivey. First of all, he's a pretty damn good strength and conditioning coach. But he's also Dr. Pat Ivey, one of those most instrumental in the creation of Men 4 Men, an attempt to turn athletes into both people and, yes, men.
Ivey was perhaps one of the guiding forces in giving J'Mon Moore the instincts to stop in on the Concerned Student 1950 protests a while back. And he has only helped players like Moore, Charles Harris, Ian Simon, Anthony Sherrils, and others become confident and outspoken on social issues. He hsa been an incredible asset for this university and this athletic department.
The freshmen of 2015! Drew Lock, Terry Beckner Jr., Cam Hilton, etc. Kevin Puryear, Terrence Phillips, Cullen VanLeer, and K.J. Walton. Sophie Cunningham!! and Cierra Porter. Paige Lowary and Amanda Sanchez. Tanner Houck. Alyssa Munlyn. Willie Miklus. Shauna Miller and Becca Schugel. Those from the other sports I don't follow as well as I should. This athletic program is loaded with young talent. It's a great thing to remember in a year where things maybe didn't go as well as you hoped.
Drew Lock saying 'poopy.'
Drew Lock on the Cam Hilton called-back TD: "To see that happen, that was kind of poopy."— David Morrison (@DavidCMorrison) November 22, 2015
Drew's got a gorgeous arm and one of the most unique, non-jaded personalities you'll ever see. Here's to hoping we get to watch him blossom into a leader and play-maker.
Brian Smith. He almost won Missouri a national title last year, and he's built one of the steadiest, most constantly awesome programs in the history of the athletic department.
The Kreklows. They've been around nearly as long as Smith, and they took Mizzou to the doorstep of a second SEC title in three years this fall.
The Stubble Drive. You guys are incredible.
Gary Pinkel. I don't even know what to say. I don't think anything needs to be said. In 15 years, he proved to Missouri fans that the program really was a sleeping giant and that it really could achieve at a high level. And then he proved it again and again. Thanks so much, Coach.
We have a lot to be thankful for, and this is a supposed down year. That's awesome. Happy Thanksgiving, everybody.