Most of Missouri’s football team crowded around Connor McGovern the morning of June 26 in the training facility’s weight room.
McGovern — a 6-foot-4, 305-pound senior offensive lineman and son of a bodybuilder from Fargo, N.D. — was set to take a crack at breaking the Tigers’ all-time squat record.
Plates totaling 690 pounds were slid into place before McGovern rhythmically lifted the bar up and down five times. He was credited with an MU record 810-pound squat — nipping the old record set by Jack Meiners.
“We don’t do one-rep squats anymore just because of the injuries that can occur when you put that much weight on your back,” McGovern said.
Still, squatting 690 pounds five times is plenty impressive.
“Watching him do it, it was crazy to see all that weight on one bar then a man go up and down with it five times,” senior running back Russell Hansbrough said. “It was just amazing. … Everybody gathered around and cheered him on, then he did it with such ease I thought it was just a regular workout first.”
Even more impressive was McGovern’s reaction after setting the record and before relaxing into senior center Evan Boehm’s arms.
“It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” Boehm said. “No joke. … I’m sitting there thinking, ‘Oh my God, this kid’s a stud.’ After that, I’d be like, ‘Give me a water’ or ‘Give me a seat and let me sit down.’ This kid came up screaming and, from a dead pull, just rips his shirt off. … That’s one of the beastiest things and moments I’ve seen here at Mizzou. Just Connor, breaking the record and” — here Boehm unleashed a mighty roar — “the freaking Hulk came out. Dude, it was nuts.”
McGovern might need to be The Hulk after switching positions to protect quarterback Maty Mauk’s blind side.
McGovern played center as a freshman in 2012 before shifting to right guard as a sophomore, where he flourished. He began his junior season at right tackle, but switched back to guard for the final 10 games last year.
McGovern’s preference would be to remain at right guard, but MU’s coaches believe — given his strength and experience — that left tackle is the best fit for this Tigers team.
It’s a dramatic switch and one McGovern was reticent to make, but he’s making the adjustment.
“I’ve totally bought into the left tackle,” McGovern said. “I enjoy it. It’s something new to learn and gives me some extra stuff to do. It’s not monotonous. I enjoy it out there. It’s the position that every offensive lineman wants to play. It’s the superstar offensive lineman, so it’s fun to get out there and practice it and play it. Yeah, I’ve fully accepted that role.”
The toughest thing might be switching from the right side to the left, where everything is wonky and opposite from the instincts he’s developed in recent seasons.
“I got used to playing on the right,” said McGovern, who said the knee injury that caused him to miss the spring game is completely healed. “I played on the right for so long. Just switching sides and just trying to be ambidextrous and being able to play as many positions as I can.”
Teammates have no doubt McGovern will flourish again at his new spot.
“Connor’s an athlete,” Boehm said. “Connor’s a stud. Connor can do anything that you ask him to do. He can play running back if you need him to do it. At the same time, he’s going to work hard each and every day that he’s out here. … I believe in Connor, and I think Connor can do that.”
After witnessing his weight-room exploits, how could anyone doubt McGovern?
“We knew he would do it, but we had never seen anything like it,” said Dennis, who maxed out at 530 pounds in his squat. “We didn’t expect that either. … As hard as he worked, I feel like he deserved it.”