Cody Schrader is a perfect example of why the game of college football is so beautiful.
We often fawn over the biggest, strongest, and fastest players, but we can’t forget the guys with important immeasurable traits. Players with determination, grit, heart, and perseverance — the stuff that makes Schrader an outstanding player. The stuff that makes him so valuable to the 2023 Missouri Tigers.
“At the end of the day I’m a football player. I’m 5-9, not insanely fast. I don’t jump out the gym, I don’t do none of that man,” Schrader said. “But at the end of the day, I’ve never seen a 5-star put (that) on their chest when they put the pads on. So, when the pads come on the only thing you got is your heart, your team and the guys that you’ve got riding with you.”
In the fourth quarter of the 88th Cotton Bowl Classic, Schrader paved way to No. 9 Missouri’s first New Year’s Six Bowl victory over No. 7 Ohio State.
After being lifeless on the offensive side of the ball for nearly 45 minutes of game time, the Tigers leaned on its offensive MVP this season. On the first play of the last stanza, at the Ohio State seven-yard line, Schrader bowling balled his way into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown capping off an eight-play, 95-yard touchdown drive.
The Tigers wouldn’t relinquish the lead from then on.
After forcing Ohio State to punt, Mizzou went back to a familiar script that we’ve seen all season. Schrader pounded his way up the middle for short and effective gains primarily through the teeth of the Buckeyes’ defense. After accumulating 52% of MU’s 84 yards to that point on the current drive, Cook hit Luther Burden III in the end zone, putting the Tigers up 14-3 and leaving OSU and its a third-string quarterback in too deep a hole to climb out of.
“Coach Drink has been preaching this to us all week. You win games in the fourth quarter, nowhere else. When the moment came, we were ready to execute because we’ve been practicing all week,” Schrader said. “It just didn’t just happen. Right? We’ve been practicing this last month focusing on fourth quarter execution and I’m just proud of this team for coming through.”
With victory in sight but time still on the clock, Missouri needed to close out the game and went to no other than No. 7. The Shredder churned out the needed yardage, forcing Ohio State to burn all its timeouts and clinch the 16th bowl win in program history.
“When there’s four minutes left on the clock and they look at you to go finish this game out… That’s a special feeling when other guys, the o-line, comes up to you and goes, ‘It’s Shredder time,’ you got Luther saying that,” Schrader said.
Ohio State’s defense, which features plenty of NFL-caliber talent, did all it could to try and limit Schrader. But when the clocks hit zero, the stat sheet read 128 yards on 30 carriers for the St. Louis native. It wasn’t Schrader’s most dominant performance of the year — he did gash both Arkansas and Tennessee for over 200 yards while putting up a buck-fifty on South Carolina — but this game against the Buckeyes helped rewrite Mizzou’s record books.
Somewhere during the Tigers unforgettable fourth quarter, and in the same bowl game that Tony Temple rushed for 281 yards over 15 years ago, Schrader gained the needed yards to surpass both Devin West and Tyler Badie to become the new MU single-season rushing leader. He can now claim the best statistical season by a Mizzou running back. Ever.
Following Friday’s performance, Schrader ends his final collegiate season with 1,627 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns, which ties him for 8th all-time in MU history. Badie finished the 2021 season with 1,604 yards, while West totaled 1,578 (it’s important to note that bowl stats didn’t count until 2002). Schrader, who has never been fond of stats, acknowledged that this one meant something special.
“I’ve never chased individual records, but man, to end [my] career as Cotton Bowl Champs and with that... it’s extremely special,” Schrader said. “Shoutout to these guys that have been blocking up front for the last 13 weeks.”
“My only goal was to play. So, all these accolades, all these awards it comes with just the work,” Schrader said. “I’m living in an answered prayer, man, and when you are living in an answered prayer you give all the glory to God because this is what I’ve been praying for since I was a little kid and to kind of see it all come to fruition it’s all God. It’s all his glory. It’s all for him.”
His impact on the 2023 Tigers extends both on and off the field as a leader as well.
“I think being voted team captain is one of the greatest honors,” Schrader said. “I’ve learned so much for them. I’ve became a better man just a guy being able to be around these guys, around this team, around those coaching staff man has definitely shaped me to be a better man.”
It’s a bitter-sweet ending as it’s the last time fans we’ll get to see Schrader in a Mizzou black and gold uniform and the final time that the returning will get to play alongside the Shredder. But it’s inarguably an incredible way to cap one of the most memorable two-year careers in Mizzou history.
“I’m kind of sad it’s my last game with The Shredder. But you know, I’m happy to know we finished the right way,” Burden said. “His story is crazy. I was watching his highlights last night and I’m like, this dude is a straight freak. I’m just proud of him and just super excited for his future.”
As for Schrader, it’s off to prove something to an NFL team, but he’ll forever be a Tiger, a New Year’s Six Bowl champion and the Tigers single-season rushing leader.
“It’s sad but I’m at peace,” Schrader said. “There was no other option but to win tonight.”