COLUMBIA — New Missouri commitment Trevon Walters figured the offers would start rolling in. His coach, Joe Kinnan, did too.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
This was last September, and Walters — a first-year starter at running back at Manatee High School in Florida — was hopeful after what amounted to a coming-out party against Miami Central, a squad that featured 12 juniors and seniors committed to D-1 schools, including two star running backs in Dalvin Cook (Florida) and Joseph Yearby (Miami).
Despite the presence of more ballyhooed backs, the 5-foot-10, 189-pound Walters — who said he had no college offers at the time — made a bid to steal the show, exploding for 113 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries and eight catches for 120 yards and another touchdown. He also had a game-clinching 85-yard gallop in the fourth quarter, clinching Manatee’s 44-34 victory and handing the eventual Florida 6A state champions their only loss to a Florida school all season.
"He was the best running back on the field that day," Kinnan said. "He broke one run where he got into the secondary and took it to the house, and you know what kind of athletes Central has."
When the offers Walters sought didn’t come immediately, he used it as fuel to post a monster junior season in which he rushed 121 times for 1,119 yards and 16 touchdowns and also caught 29 passes for 411 yards and four touchdowns for Manatee, which went 13-1 in Florida’s second-biggest classification.
“After that game, it made me more hungry,” Walters said. “I told myself the offers would come — just be patient."
This summer, they finally did. And Walters, who was given a two-star rating by Rivals but is listed as a three-star prospect by 247Sports and ESPN, settled on Missouri on Sunday night over South Florida, Minnesota, Tulane, Toledo, Marshall, Georgia Southern and Florida International. He is Missouri’s 19th commitment for the Class of 2014.
"I wanted to commit before the season started," Walters said. "I like that they’re in the SEC, first of all, and I like the relationship I have with them. They’ve been talking to me since they’ve been able to recruit me. Mizzou gives me an opportunity to play football in the SEC, like I always dreamed."
Walters, whose lead recruiter is running backs coach Brian Jones, is also excited about Missouri’s spread offense. So much so that when he plays NCAA Football 14, he even uses Missouri’s playbook sometimes.
"I actually love the offense," said Walters, whose high school squad also runs the spread. "Sometimes I play Ohio State, Georgia and Alabama, but I use Missouri’s playbook."
Walters still has visits scheduled to Toledo on Sept. 13 and Minnesota on Sept. 27, and is still working on scheduling one to Missouri.
Kinnan, however, doesn’t think Missouri has anything to worry aout.
"I think he’s probably pretty solid," Kinnan said. "We tell kids that if you’re probably 90 percent sure that’s where you want to go, it’s a good idea to commit unless something down the road drastically changes your mind."
Walters said he is excited to see Missouri’s campus, adding that Manatee teammate Jake Stickler — a tight end who was recruited by Missouri but committed to Georgia Tech — had plenty of nice things to say about Columbia after his visit.
"He went up there and said it was a great college town," Walters said. "The facilities are nice, the people are nice, he liked the uniforms, everything. It was like a 20-hour drive back to Florida and he thought about Mizzou real hard on the way back, he just liked Georgia Tech a little better."
Walters, who Kinnan said runs a 4.4 40-yard dash, benches 305 pounds, squats 410 pounds and has a vertical hump of 37 inches, is the Tigers’ fifth 2014 commitment from Florida, which doesn’t surprise his coach.
"Since they’ve been in the SEC, they’ve made their presence felt down here," said Kinnan, who has won five state championships at Manatee in his 28 years as coach.
Kinnan said coaches from 84 Division-1 programs visited his school — which produced legendary Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier — in the spring. According to Rivals, Walters is one of six Manatee seniors that currently have D-1 offers.
They’ll be on national television at 6 p.m. Sunday, when they open their season against The Gilman School (Md.) on Fox Sports 1.
Walters sees it as another chance to shine, much like he did against Miami Central nearly a year ago.
"That was my biggest high school game so far," said Walters, who wants to rush for 2,000 yards and 25 touchdowns this season. "That was a big step for me. I felt like if I could do that against them, I could do that against anyone."