Ask around the Missouri football team’s locker room and most players dream of an NFL career.
The money, the fame, the passion to play at football’s highest level — it makes sense.
Just not to Tigers senior cornerback Logan Cheadle, who was among the few bright spots for a battered defense during Saturday’s season-opening win against Missouri State.
“It’s not at the forefront of my mind exactly,” Cheadle said of a possible NFL career. “I came to college excited about getting an education and playing for my home state. I want to do everything I can to ball out my senior year. We’ll see where I’m at by the end of the year and what happens, but it’s not my number one goal in life.”
If he’s drafted, Cheadle (5-10, 185) will give pro football a shot. If not, he’s prepared to move on.
“He’s a very sharp guy and realizes you don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” said MU running backs coach Cornell Ford, who coached cornerbacks during Cheadle’s first two seasons. “I’m not saying the NFL deal is not there. Maybe it is; maybe it isn’t — but he knows there’s more to this than just football in the future and you’ve got to start getting ready for it now. I knew when he walked in that he was going to be that kind of guy.”
Cheadle is a health science major with a certification in sales and customer development. He interned during the summer with Aflac selling supplemental insurance.
“I always wanted to do something in health, because I want to help people,” Cheadle said. “As I got older, I realized I didn’t want to do enough school to be a physician. I didn’t want to be on the clinical side of things, so I looked at the administrative side.”
Football-wise Cheadle’s always been something of an underdog and, paradoxically, an overachiever.
He was a candidate to redshirt as a freshman in 2014 after graduating from Lee’s Summit West but earned a starting role on special teams.
Cheadle — a cousin of Kansas City-born and Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle, who also is a Hollywood producer, writer, and director — emerged as one of Mizzou’s top reserve corners in 2015 and earned the starting nickelback job last season before an ankle injury derailed his junior year.
Now, Cheadle is starting at cornerback for the Tigers after winning the job during spring practice and solidifying himself as the most consistent boundary player on the roster during training camp.
“Logan’s done a great job really all offseason in stepping up his game and through fall camp was a bright spot every time we took the field,” second-year coach Barry Odom said. “He understands the defense. He’s a leader. He does a great job in communicating and has got his eyes in the right spot every snap.”
Secondary coach/co-defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said Cheadle and freshman cornerback Adam Sparks were the only defensive backs who graded out well against the Bears.
Cheadle’s second-quarter interception was Missouri’s first turnover of the season — and a critical one as Missouri State provided a much stiffer test than expected.
“It felt good to get that first turnover of the season,” Cheadle said. “I was excited, but I hope the whole defense can play better this week.”
That’s his sole focus.
Cheadle didn’t set lofty individual goals for his senior season. He didn’t want to be hunting interceptions to the detriment of the team.
Instead, Cheadle is focused on how incredible it felt to reach the SEC Championship Game as a freshman.
He also remembers the sting of the back-to-back losing seasons that followed, so returning Mizzou to prominence is more important that chasing individual achievements.
“I want to win every game,” Cheadle said. “I know that’s probably not what you want to hear, but I just want to ball out with my team and send Mizzou back out on top. We want to win as many games as we can and get to a championship.”
The fact that he may never play football again only heightens Cheadle’s drive.
“I’m approaching it like it’s my last year,” he said. “It makes me want to go after it even more, knowing there’s a chance I might never put pads on again after the season. I want to go out on top. I have to. I’ve got to play my best game and be the best me. Every year, I want to be the best Logan Cheadle I can be and I know I have high expectations for myself.”