The Missouri football team is going to its first bowl game in three seasons, and an ultra-famous music producer has played a minor role in the Tigers’ success.
DJ Khaled, who has produced collaborations with some of hip-hop’s greatest stars, has multiple catchphrases that he has popularized through his music and social media, and one of them — “secure the bag” — has become the Tigers’ catchphrase, too. They began adopting it just before they started a five-game win streak that has helped them become just the second Southeastern Conference team to ever reach bowl eligibility after starting a season 1-5.
The phrase, as the Tigers use it, means something different depending on whom you ask. Accomplish your goals. Make plays so you get noticed and earn money. Complete your assignment for the team. Make a big play, and you have secured the bag.
Distill the different meanings down, and they all trace back to the idea of letting pride motivate you.
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“My bag is full of accomplishments, my swagger, my confidence, everything,” safety Anthony Sherrils said last week.
There are technical reasons Missouri is winning football games. Quarterback Drew Lock is playing the best football of his career. The MU secondary is improving. The Tigers are creating turnovers.
Still, the phrase represents something important about this team: The Tigers always tried to avoid getting too down on themselves or one another, and they never quit on this season.
This Missouri team began the season with a false sense of confidence, coach Barry Odom said, and it showed almost immediately. The Tigers gave up 43 points to Missouri State, and the low point came two weeks later, when they lost 35-3 at home to Purdue.
“You’re looking for positives,” Odom said on Monday. “... We had to search a little bit harder than normal during that stretch.”
The Boilermakers beat the confidence out of Mizzou. Auburn crushed the Tigers in Columbia a week later. Then came the bye week. And then came the week of the Kentucky game, when Lock decided to start using the phrase “secure the bag,” which former backup quarterback Marvin Zanders — a big DJ Khaled fan — used to say before he transferred from MU.
“We tried to get a little momentum, tried to have a little fun,” Lock said. “It wasn’t too bright when we were taking a lot of losses.”
Mizzou lost to Kentucky, 40-34, but the Tiger offense displayed promise for the first time in weeks. There was a special moment, too: Jack Lowary, a backup quarterback, brought an imaginary bag to Lock after he threw a touchdown against the Wildcats. Lock pretended to put his left arm through a strap over his left shoulder, then he did the same with his right. Then he clipped the straps together.
“It was one of the cooler things that ever happened to me,” Lock said.
The phrase moved from the quarterbacks to the rest of the team. After a practice last week, a defensive back, Finis Stribling IV, walked past Lock, and the quarterback asked, “secure the what?”
“Secure the bag,” Stribling said before leaving the field.
Linebacker Terez Hall said when the Tigers finish a squat or complete the required number of reps in the weight room, they have secured the bag.
“I’ll put it on like a Santa Claus deal,” Hall said. “... It’s imaginary, if everybody wants to know.”
Although in a college football season that has included a turnover trashcan at Tennessee and a turnover chain at Miami, maybe Missouri could have a physical bag.
“But it’s got to be a designer bag or something,” wide receiver J’Mon Moore said on Monday, while wearing Gucci flip-flops. “It can’t be no regular bag.”
Yes, this is silly. But Odom said this season turned around, in part, because his players are close, because they trust one another — and a team-wide phrase seems like one way to grow closer.
“We needed a little phrase when everything went dark man,” Hall said. “Once you make enough plays or something like that, you have a phrase. Once you do make a phrase, everything started to click.”
The Tigers are confident again. They can’t hide it.
For weeks, Odom said the team was taking the season one day at a time, and his players said the same. But on Monday they mentioned that their coach had told them they could become just the second team ever to start a season 1-5 and finish it 8-5, if they win this week’s game against Arkansas and a bowl game. Moore said he wouldn’t think about anything less.
Want more proof of confidence?
Lock said that during Mizzou’s first offensive drive of its game against Vanderbilt, he slid after a run, and a Commodore defensive back told the junior from Lee’s Summit that he’d “be here all night.”
“I looked at him and told him, ‘It’s going to be a long night for you then,’” Lock said.
Later in that Vanderbilt game, Lock threw a 30-yard touchdown to Richaud Floyd that put Missouri up by four scores. Afterward, Lock turned to his sideline to celebrate. He slid his left arm underneath an imaginary strap, then he did the same with his right before clicking the straps together across his chest.