Missouri senior punter Christian Brinser called home in May with big news.
“I’m your favorite child now,” he jokingly told his parents, Robert and Kathy.
Christian was a good baseball player at Liberty High School, good enough to get scholarship offers from several NCAA Division II and NAIA schools, but he chose a different path.
A two-time all-state punter for the Blue Jays as a junior and senior, Christian chose instead to walk on with the Missouri football team.
Christian’s older sister, Courtney, is a former Golden Girl and 2011 MU graduate who went on to be a Chiefs cheerleader. He used to kid his parents, asking, “If I get put on scholarship, will I be your favorite child?”
“This was before he’d even gone down there,” Kathy said. “Jokingly, because we know it was a joke with his sister, we’d say, ‘Yes, absolutely, if you’re on full scholarship.’”
Four years later, Christian, who averaged 41.0 yards as the Tigers’ starting punter last season, earned a full ride then broke the news to his parents with a dose of humor.
Of course, Christian’s ascendance from walk-on to integral piece of Missouri’s puzzle during last season’s magical 12-2 ride, which included a Southeastern Conference East division title and Cotton Bowl victory, isn’t entirely a laughing matter for the Brinsers.
Robert also walked on as a punter at Missouri from 1980-82, but he never played in a game before transferring to William Jewell to finish his college career.
“Given my experience, I was concerned. But I kept telling Christian to keep working hard,” Robert said. “You never really know what they’re going to do. They’re always looking to find someone better than you. That’s their job.”
Christian redshirted in 2010 and punted only once over the next two seasons, unleashing a 47-yard rocket against Western Illinois.
Robert feared that might be the extent of his son’s career, so it was a relief when Christian earned the starting job as a junior.
“Up until last year, he was kind of scared that it wouldn’t happen for him. And you never want to see your child hurt,” Kathy said. “But watching him punt at the SEC Championship and at Cowboys Stadium (in the Cotton Bowl), it hit (Robert) that (Christian) has really accomplished this.”
Christian, who grew up rooting for Missouri, spent the spring and summer working on increasing his hang time. He’d like to average 4.5 seconds and avoid allowing any returns this season.
During the season opener against South Dakota State, Christian met his goal, averaging 43.0 yards on four punts — with three of 47 yards or longer — and no returns.
“It’s the No. 1 yard-producing play on the football field — your punting game,” Tigers coach Gary Pinkel said. “When your punter takes away the potential punt returns and also gives you great field position with a combination of distance and hang time, it’s pretty good, so I was pleased with his performance.”
Being put on scholarship last spring cemented in Christian’s mind that he made the right decision by taking a chance with the Tigers.
“It let him know, if nothing else, that all the hard work and the time and the dedication had paid off,” Robert said.
Now, Christian is eager to justify the coaches’ faith in him, though it’s all still surreal sometimes.
“I go out there with a plan this year rather than just going out and hoping I kick well,” Christian said. “But I want to pinch myself sometimes. I’ve worked so hard for this and I feel like I deserve it, as hard as I’ve worked. Eventually, I think it’s going to hit me — that I started for Mizzou and played in the SEC.”