In a jam-packed conference room that usually serves as the counselor's office at Lutheran North High School, Jack Buford reached under the scarlet red table and unveiled a golden Missouri hat, which led to a string of cheers.
“I’m 110 percent committed to the University of Missouri,” Buford said as M-I-Z chants erupted around him.
On Wednesday, the 6-foot-4 offensive lineman did something that a lot of highly touted St. Louis football recruits had not done lately: stayed home.
Buford’s commitment doesn’t only fill a major need at offensive line for the Tigers, it helps open the gates 120 miles east on Interstate 70, a year after Missouri went 1-for-10 in landing the highly touted ‘Tiger 10.’
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“It starts at home,” he said. “I want to build something here. On my official visit they made it feel like it was home. Let’s just go ahead and commit and get this thing rolling. Somehow I have to get the rest of the players in St. Louis and bring them home with me.”
Buford took his official visit to Missouri this past weekend and was hosted by Tigers safety Ronnell Perkins, who also played at Lutheran North.
Buford realizes the significance of his recruitment and specifically mentioned wide receiver Marcus Washington, defensive back Jalani Williams, fellow lineman Ira Henry and athlete Kyren Williams, who visited MU with him, as recruits he plans to get in the ear of now that his process is over.
"We're coming for you," Buford said.
A year ago, the four-star recruit hadn’t garnered national attention. But he paid attention as his teammate Ronnie Perkins and Parkway North’s Michael Thompson signed with Oklahoma and CBC wideout Kamryn Babb headed to Ohio State.
“I was just like what’s going on with Mizzou,” Buford said. “A year ago I never thought I’d be going to the University of Missouri. I had bigger schools recruiting me. I feel the love from my hometown. I feel like me committing to Missouri is me giving back to them.”
Buford projects as a guard at the college level but said he could also see time at center. He chose Missouri over Arkansas and Oklahoma, among others. Buford said he had 32 scholarship offers.
Carl Reed, his coach at Lutheran North, said that he thinks Buford could play early in his career, citing his size and athleticism that incoming recruits usually don’t have.
“He’s got the total package,” Reed said.
As a longtime coach in the area, Reed said Buford’s pledge sends a message to other local programs about Missouri’s intent to recruit St. Louis.
“I think that it’s huge for the state of Missouri, the University of Missouri,” he said. “It shows they have made a commitment to recruit St. Louis.”
While running backs coach Cornell Ford is the program’s main recruiter for the St. Louis area, Buford cited his relationship with offensive line coach Brad Davis, coach Barry Odom and offensive coordinator Derek Dooley as his main reasons for committing so early.
Davis joined the staff earlier this year and Buford said he hit it off with his future coach, “the first day I met him.”
Buford now turns his attention to his peers, as he will try to bring some company with him to Columbia in 2019.
He already has his sales pitch down.
“They’re always going to think of the kids that stay home,” he said. “It’s our home state. It’s our hometown. It’s the Show-Me State. There’s no breaks. I’m starting now.”