Ever wondered what a Mizzou team that was comprised of only Missouri kids would look like? Or wonder how good an only-Texan Mizzou squad would do? Well, you’re in luck! This offseason, the Rock M Masthead is assembling the best team of Mizzou players by state that they graduated high school from. We compiled a list of the significant starters on every team from the year 2000 on and voted on the best players at their position group in order to create three “All-State” Mizzou squads: Team Missouri, Team Texas, and Team USA. Over the next nine weeks you’ll read about these Mizzou Greats that hailed from the respective regions and, hopefully, come away impressed with just how good these fictional teams could actually be.
This week features a position with several legendary players: the running backs.
When you think of, “2007 Mizzou Football,” how far down the list of players you think of is Tony Temple?
At the very best, he’s going to be fourth or fifth billing. Chase Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Sean Weatherspoon are probably 1 through 3. I think of Pig Brown and William Moore. Chase Coffman and Martin Rucker. Then we probably start thinking about Tony Temple? Maybe? Probably?
No matter which way you slice it, Tony Temple was simply never the guy in his time at Missouri. Sure, he was the running back in the same way that every football team has one. But Temple was never as explosive as Henry Josey or as workmanlike as Larry Rountree. Hell, if you look at his stats, they look downright pedestrian. Temple only crossed 1,000 yards rushing twice, and barely did it in his junior and senior seasons.
But for all the thinking you may not do about Tony Temple, ask yourself this — does Mizzou go as far as it does in 2007 without Temple?
The tally for Team Missouri’s running back was one of the closer votes we’ve seen in this series. And while we had one lone holdout for Zack Abron (don’t think I don’t see you, St. Charles county people), the decision really came down to Tony Temple and Derrick Washington. And while I can only speak for myself, the decision between the two came down to a combination of talent and character. While this space won’t be used to relitigate the Derrick Washington saga, it seems fairly clear that Gary Pinkel was justified in dismissing the Raymore-Peculiar product from his program. Was Washington perhaps the more talented back overall? There’s certainly an argument. But Temple did it longer and without all the negative noise that we came to associate with Washington.
Temple’s brilliance, after all, was in knowing his role and picking his spots. Unlike feature backs who carry their teams to the mountaintop, Temple was a product of Missouri’s fast-paced spread. He knew he wasn’t always going to get a truckload of carries; rather, he was the tone-setter, the guy who reminded defenses that, “Hey, if Chase Daniel doesn’t throw it over your head, I’ll run it down your throat.”
The Kansas Citian’s game logs fluctuate back-and-forth, especially in his senior season. In games one through four, he averaged 16 carries a game, whereas in games five through seven, he got a total of 21. Temple was instrumental down the stretch, however, ripping off 141 yards against Texas A&M and 104 total scrimmage yards in the Battle of Arrowhead, acting as an accent to Chase Daniel’s Heisman-adjacent antics.
The real capper to Temple’s case here is his 2008 Cotton Bowl performance, one that saw him set the Cotton Bowl record and place second all time for most rushing yards in a bowl game. For his career, Temple averaged an above-average 5.5 yards per carry. In the Cotton Bowl, where Missouri was shunted despite only losing to the eventual Big 12 champions? Temple said, “Make mine a double,” flattening the Arkansas defense to the tune of four touchdowns and 281 rushing yards.
I go back and watch the highlights from this game every so often, and it’s such a joy to watch Temple run. Was he the fastest guy that ever came out of Missouri’s backfield? The strongest, the most agile? No, no and no. But Tony Temple embodied the type of player Gary Pinkel wanted to bring to Missouri — local, highly-rated and willing to stick it out for the long haul to be a part of a special team. Watch him as he embarks on his (many) scoring runs. He’s immediately calling out for and anticipating his blockers, using his natural chemistry with his teammates as a bludgeon.
In an offense that featured All Americans galore, Tony Temple rarely got to be the hero of the story. On his last day in a Mizzou Football uniform, though, Temple was carried off the field by his teammates, fresh off of winning the Cotton Bowl MVP. He’s exactly the type of guy that fits in an All-Mizzou team, one that doesn’t need the whole spotlight to shine.