Missouri was the first school to offer Winnetonka senior football star Marquise Doherty more than two years ago.
The Tigers’ recruiting staff, led by associate coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill, built the longest and strongest relationship, which Doherty rewarded Friday with a verbal commitment.
“Two years is a long time to get to know somebody or a group of people, so I’ve always had the best connection with them and felt the most comfortable with them,” said Doherty, who also developed a rapport with MU running backs coach Brian Jones and safeties coach Alex Grinch.
Doherty, a Rivals four-star running back/safety, said ultimately it was that comfort, which led him to pick Missouri over Oregon.
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He admitted that he was leaning toward the Ducks as recently as the last few months, but an official visit in mid-December turned the tide in the Tigers’ favor.
Doherty — who also had Kansas State, Louisville and Iowa in his top five — wanted to see everything the program had to offer on his official visit, which put Oregon at a disadvantage.
“Going to Mizzou, where I’ve been four or five times on unofficial (visits), there really wasn’t much else to see except for the lifestyle and hanging out with the guys,” he said. “That’s what I really enjoyed. When I was on my visit, I realized how comfortable I was — not only with the players, but the staff.”
Doherty, who runs the 40-yard dash in under 4.5 seconds and won the intermediate 55-meter dash at the 2012 AAU Indoor National Track and Field Championships, is a versatile athlete.
He also will play baseball at Missouri and is a candidate for multiple positions on the gridiron.
“He’s capable of doing just about whatever he wants to,” Griffins coach Sterling Edwards said. “A lot of schools that have come through have pegged him as a safety. One of the things he liked about Missouri was they didn’t peg him at any one position.”
Doherty plans to start at running back, but he’s open to playing safety “if it helps the team more and I get on the field faster,” he said.
“They really want to get me involved in the return game too since Marcus Murphy’s leaving,” Doherty said.
Doherty said his commitment is firm.
“The main reason why I, for lack of a better term, drug it out so long was just because I didn’t want to commit early and then have a bunch of schools show up late that I wanted to talk to,” Doherty said. “I’m at a point now, where I’m comfortable with going to Missouri. … Even if a new school were to come to the table, there’s not even enough time to get to know that staff enough.”
The only thing that might keep Doherty from making it to Columbia is the possibility he’ll be picked in the first few rounds of the 2015 MLB Draft in June.
“I haven’t really talked to much about that, but if the money is right and it’s a good situation for me and my family, I’ll probably go to the draft,” he said.
However, Doherty added, “The reason I spent so much time making my college decision and getting it right was because I plan on going to college.”
Doherty joins Iowa freshman fullback Aaron Mends as the only Winnetonka football players in the last 30 years to earn NCAA Division I scholarships.
“It’s a huge deal for our program,” Edwards said. “We hadn’t had a Division I kid since 1984. Now, to have two in the last two years, going to big schools and playing at a high level, it’s a big deal for our school, our program and something we’re proud of.”