Rock M Nation caught up with Missouri offensive lineman Kevin Pendleton as he prepares for his post-college football future. Pendleton — a media favorite during his time in Columbia — broke down his college career and provided valuable insight about the direct of Missouri football.
Why did you commit to Missouri out of high school?
Kevin Pendleton: On the visits to Missouri, it really just felt like home. It was my home state, which was huge for me because I wanted to be somewhere close for my family to come see me play. Also, just the whole culture that was there, with Coach Pinkel and his staff. Ultimately, that proved to be a great culture and it carried over with Coach Odom. I fell into a great situation there.
What were your biggest strength gains over your career?
KP: My hang clean, my explosion really took off after getting in college. I remember I was doing 225 as like a heavy lift, when I was first getting here, and now it’s anywhere from 330 to 350.
What’s the one thing you learned about being a student athlete that you wish you knew when you first arrived on campus?
KP: I knew the resources we had, I knew they were there. I just didn’t take advantage of them as often as I could have or should have. That would have been something that would have been huge for me, because I ended up changing majors. I was a business major, and it got rough so I had to jump ship. If I would have used those resources early on and been OK with asking for help -- that’s the biggest thing, knew that it was OK to ask for help because it’s gonna be hard -- I would have had a different degree.
Which player or coach was the most instrumental in your development?
KP: It was really a group effort. Definitely when I first got there, looking at the older guys, how they approached the game -- like Mitch Morse, Connor McGovern, Evan Boehm -- and then once I started playing, had guys around me like Alec Abeln, guys that had played some ball and been through some stuff, but we were also going through the change together. Guys like him and Tyler Howell.
And then this past year, just trying to learn as much from guys like -- I was always learning from coaches, but especially Coach (Brad) Davis and Coach (Derek) Dooley, just the different aspects to the game they brought, their knowledge of the game in the many, many different realms of football.
It was a big process, but really I was just always looking for guidance from people that had been there before or we were going through it at the same time. Just people that had the knowledge that I could use, because I always loved learning.
Who was the best opposing player you played against?
KP: Best opposing? Most likely Quinnen Williams, this year. He was a talent.
I was fortunate enough at Mizzou because I played against some tough dudes at practice, guys like Harold Brantley. My first year we had guys like Markus Golden and Shane Ray, when I was on scout team, and then Charles Harris -- the lineage is there.
I was fortunate enough to play against great guys here at Mizzou at practice, and every week in the SEC, you face people, but yeah, 92 for Bama was a different player. He’s a talented dude. He’s gonna make a lot of money.
What was the best team you played against?
KP: Probably Bama this year. That was a special team, all across the board. It showed -- it didn’t show most recently, but this season, it showed. They were a team to be reckoned with.
Who is the most talented teammate you played with during our career?
KP: Most talented? Drew’s special. The thing’s he’s able to do with the ball have just been incredible for me to see. We’ll be at practice, I’m blocking my tail off, and I’ll hear ‘Ball’ and I’ll just watch. The placement he can put on it, the talent he has, it shows through his career.
My favorite teammates are the class I came in with (2014). We’ve created a special bond, guys like Kendall Blanton, Paul Adams, Finis Stribling, Rod Winters, Tavon Ross. Those guys are the guys that it’s been a blessing to be around for four and a half years.
What’s your most proud moment or accomplishment on the field during your career?
KP: That’s tough. Just the people I’ve been around has been a blessing. The experiences and things we’ve shared are things no one can ever take from us, whether it’s going into Death Valley my first year starting or going to Alabama as a senior, or senior night against Arkansas, pitching a shutout. Things like that, those are memories and moments that all of us will be able to share for the rest of our lives. That’s my most fond memory, just the culmination of all the experiences I’ve shared with these men.
What was the toughest moment of your college career?
KP: This year was actually pretty tough. Battled through a lot of different stuff, specifically injury-wise. I was just out there fighting with my brothers. I had a lot of people that had my back and supported me through it, to get us where we ended up. This year was tough, but it was also the most rewarding and best year of my life, honestly, just to share these last few experiences with my brothers.
All types of injuries. It seemed like it something new every week, ankle to knee to back. My foot’s been numb since June. I haven’t had feeling in my foot. Just a culmination of things that really came out of nowhere and things you can’t control. I had to learn to deal with those things I had no control over, had to keep going and keep fighting.
What was the biggest change around the football program after Barry Odom took over?
KP: Coach Odom, he was around with Pinkel and Pinkel was one of his huge mentors, so a lot of things were pretty similar. But Coach Odom wanted to have more of a hands-on approach, I guess. Coach Odom was doing drills with guys -- now, granted, Coach Pinkel, when we got there, he was kind of in CEO mode. He was overlooking, he was making sure everything was ran right. That’s just how his program was, and it was fine. That’s how he was.
But Coach Odom, it was more, not in your face, but doing things with you, pushing you and motivating you alongside you and stuff like that. Both have their pros and cons, but it was just cool to see. We’d be out at practice, going through drills -- and I’ll never forget, it was his first year. Coach Odom comes by the o-line. We go through a drill, a combo drill, and the linebacker didn’t really give a good look. So Coach Odom got in there, grabbed a pad and hit -- I forget who he hit -- but he hit somebody with the bag -- and looked at the scout guy and said, ‘That’s how you do that.’
He was always around, bringing energy and passion, and that was the coolest thing about it.
Based on your experience at Missouri, what would your pitch be to future Missouri recruits?
KP: For guys in our state, it’s a pride thing about representing your state and being home. Leaving a legacy. You could go and win national championships somewhere else, but you stay home and you bring a championship home, that’s a whole other level of importance, of magnitude.
For everybody else, it’s the culture you’re around every day. It’s the type of coach that Coach Odom has on his staff, the type of player he recruits. You might be a five-star, four-star kid, but if you’re not a good kid, if you’re not raised right, don’t have good morals and things that he’s looking for to build his culture, then you’re not good enough.
It’s rare to see in today’s college football, where championships drive everything, where money drives everything. Coach Odom wants to win, but he’s not going to do it at the expense of the type of person, the type of people he’s around every day.
He’s truly building a culture that’s not only able to win, but also be great people, be great men in the future and the rest of our lives.
Who is a Missouri player that no one is talking about but fans should expect to know soon?
KP: There’s a few of them, especially in this last freshman class. People got to see a little bit of Kam Scott, a little bit of Jalen Knox, Khmari Thompson is going to be special in the wideout group. Simi Bakare is a special kid. Tyler Badie is a great kid.
And the best thing about this? It proves my last point. They’re good people, as well. They’re kids in the locker room that will do what needed to be done, in the weight room as well. They’d take the next step, they’d do the extra work. They came in with the attitude to help the team, not just get their own, so that’s huge. Those kids are going to be special on the offensive side.
Going up against kids like Gerald Nathan, kids like Cam (Wilkins) that were on our scout team. They might have played a little bit on special teams -- they went out on scout team and gave us a great look, every day. Chad Bailey, another kid, guys that are good kids and will do whatever they can to help the program win.
Those guys are guys fans can look forward to watching make plays on the field because they’re capable of making those plays.