Anyone interested in the inner workings of Missouri’s surprisingly effective offensive line would be wise to cozy up to “Boneyard.”
Boneyard knows it all, sitting in on every meeting and literally spending his (or her?) life inside the walls of the Tigers’ offensive line meeting room at the Mizzou Athletics Training Center.
Unfortunately for the Tigers’ opponents — including LSU, which hosts MU at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, La. — Boneyard is a tight-lipped Betta fish.
“We got him during the first week of camp and he’s going strong,” sophomore starting left guard Kevin Pendleton said.
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During the first week of training camp, Mizzou multimedia student assistant Caroline Hall approached a group of offensive linemen in the cafeteria.
The Tigers play a video at Memorial Stadium featuring players and their pets. She wanted to know if any of the offensive linemen wanted to be included.
They did, but Pendleton, sophomore starting right tackle Paul Adams and junior right guard Alec Abeln didn’t have any pets.
That changed 20 minutes later.
“We’d just got done with a not-so-good practice and I think we had about an hour for dinner before we had to be at a team meeting,” Adams said. “I was sitting there and said, ‘I kind of want to get a pet, to be honest with you.’ … Alec was like, ‘Let’s just get a fish.’ ”
Adams thought the idea was “hilarious” and quickly agreed along with Pendleton, so the trio set out for PetSmart by the Columbia Mall.
“We ran in there,” Pendleton said, “and we’re like, ‘Hey, we need to buy a fish in like 10 minutes. We need your help.’ ”
According to Pendleton, a nice lady who he thought was named Doris “hooked us up.”
“She walked us through all the steps and everything we need, like the filter water and little drops we need to put in there, the right food,” he said. “We came back and had time to set up the fish, then we went straight into the meeting.”
The multicolored, mini marine animal immediately became a hit with the rest of the offensive line group — which has allowed only one sack in 171 dropbacks this season but faces its toughest test of the season against LSU and the nation’s leader in sacks, junior defensive end Arden Key.
“It’s black and orange, but then fades to a gray and has a purple accent on its top fin,” Pendleton said. “It’s weird, but it’s a pretty fish.”
Boneyard’s name came from first-year Tigers offensive line coach Glen Elarbee in a roundabout way.
Each player’s name is on a magnet, which can be moved around as the depth chart changes.
“All of the fallen comrades that we had in the spring that either medically retired or no longer play the game of football … Coach Elarbee would take them off and then put them at the bottom of the board … ,” Adams said. “Finally, he was like, yeah, this is like the boneyard.”
Elarbee scrawled the word “boneyard” above the names Andy Bauer (retired, hip injury), Nate Crawford (retired, back injury), Malik Cuellar (retired), Michael Fairchild (retired) and Clay Rhodes (retired).
That stuck as the pet fish’s name.
“Essentially, he’s just the souls of all the other offensive linemen into one,” Adams said. “He’s just a trooper. He’s awesome. He’s a fighter.”
Not everyone is rooting for Boneyard.
“Some guys have a bet going that it’s not going to last, but I have a feeling that it’s going to last forever,” Pendleton said. “That’s my baby.”
“I want him to live for like two years,” he said. “As long as I’m here, I want him to be with us.”
Should the unthinkable happen, Boneyard won’t be replaced.
“If Boneyard goes down, and he’s got a name like Boneyard, I don’t know if there’s any fish who can replace him,” Pendleton said. “We’re sticking with Boneyard. He’s my ride-or-die.”
Adams joked: “I’d wear all black the entire week (if he died). I’d make a T-shirt and wear it for him, for sure.”