COLUMBIA — Kevin Pendleton never would have guessed he’d find himself in a small southwest Missouri town this summer, banging out bench-press reps in a converted bus barn.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
But thanks to a unique one-day trip set up by Royce Boehm, his coach at Lee’s Summit West, the three-star offensive tackle and Missouri commitment got a chance to expand his horizons a bit in the town of Lamar, Mo., the home of the two-time defending Class 2 state champions.
“It was pretty wild to see that guys were still out there, working hard and competing,” Pendleton said. “It doesn’t matter where.”
Pendleton was more used to working out in a more modern facility — Lee’s Summit West opened in 2004 — but once Lamar coach Scott Bailey heard that Boehm, his buddy, had an offensive lineman committed to the dream school of his twin nephews (Ben and Sam Bailey), he asked if Pendleton would mind driving down to work out with them.
Both coaches figured all three players had something to gain from the meeting. Pendleton, who played at Lincoln Prep before he transferred to Lee’s Summit West, could see how things are done in a small town, while Ben and Sam could meet a kid from the city and learn about how things are done, from a football standpoint, at a Class 5 school.
“He left it up to me,” Pendleton said. “He told me one had a Missouri offer and the other wanted one. I love going to work out with other guys, so I jumped at the opportunity. I was honored Coach Bailey picked me to work out with him.”
So Pendleton hopped in his car and made the two-hour drive to Lamar, population 4,532, where he soon learned that Ben Bailey, a 6-foot-6, 230-pound offensive guard/defensive end, and Sam Bailey, a 6-foot-5, 255-pound offensive tackle who recently became Missouri’s 16 th verbal commitment for the Class of 2014, were no slouches in the weight room — converted bus barn and all.
“Sam was putting up more weight than me in the bench press,” said Pendleton, who stands 6-feet-5 and weighs 320 pounds. “He was repping out 315 (pounds), and I was like golly, that’s crazy. It’s hard for me to get two reps of that and he hit that three or four times, easy. And his brother hit that almost as much.”
Pendleton said that during their two-hour workout, the three shared information on how they do things at their schools, which each boast strong football programs. Lee’s Summit West won the state title in 2010 and went 12-1 last season, while Lamar is 27-3 over the last two years.
“They showed me some things, some injury-prevention stuff, and I gave them some things West does,” Pendleton said. “It was great bonding time.”
After that, Pendleton said Ben and Sam showed him around the town. The drive-in movie theater, the town square, everything.
“Their other uncle owns a store right down the street,” Pendleton said. “It was great, a family atmosphere. We went into another store and it seemed like everybody knew who they were. The community supports their football team.”
The eye-opening experience was one of the reasons Pendleton was happy when Sam, who has not yet received a star rating from Rivals, decided to commit to Missouri earlier this week. Like the family, he remains hopeful Ben will get an offer, as well.
“Wherever one is, the other one is right behind him.” Pendleton said. “I’m hoping Ben can impress the coaches and get that offer. It would be good for the family, and they’re a great family — I’m rooting for them.”
One of the benefits of the trip, Pendleton said, is that he got to see the Baileys’ impressive work ethic first-hand, a trait he thinks is commonplace among the recruits in Missouri’s class.
So far, only nine of Missouri’s 16 commits have offers from other Division I schools, and of those nine, only three have offers from other Southeastern Conference schools. The class is currently ranked 42nd in the nation and last in the SEC, where every school has at least one four-star prospect committed, sans Missouri.
Not that Pendleton cares what the recruiting sites say.
“The rankings? I’m not too worried about that,” Pendleton said. “You talk to these guys, and they want to fight. Just like me, they want to prove we’re the best out there and play against the SEC and win. We’ve all got something to prove.”
A handful of them have also been very active on social media. Offensive tackle Paul Adams and receiver Thomas Richard have been very active on Twitter, trying to drum up interest in the Tigers, and Pendleton said most of the commitments stay in touch via texting.
“We have a huge group message going with a lot of the guys that are committed,” Pendleton said. “We’re clicking, all getting along. Some guys might not have the stars but they play hard and work hard.”
Pendleton’s recent one-day visit to Lamar only hammered that point home further.
“We really started connecting,” Pendleton said. “It was a good experience for all of us.”