There’s a three-inch scar in the middle of Missouri senior Duron Singleton’s forehead.
It’s easy to assume he sustained the original gash making a tackle and cutting his forehead like so many fullbacks, linebackers or offensive linemen through the years.
Singleton says it’s no battle scar, though.
Rather, it’s a testament to Singleton’s ceaseless activity going back to childhood.
“I was probably 2 (years old) and ran into a table,” said Singleton, who said the gash probably required 15 stitches. “I was a busybody when I was young. Playing football and doing different things, I was always getting little bumps and bruises.”
Now, Singleton — a 6-foot-1 and 210-pound safety from New Orleans by way of Fresno (Calif.) City Community College — is delivering the bumps and bruises as the Tigers’ starting nickelback.
Singleton played in 12 games last season — he missed the Mississippi and Texas A&M games with a hip injury — and finished with 22 tackles, including two for a loss, with a pass breakup.
Already, Singleton has racked up 14 tackles, which is tied for sixth on the team, in three games.
Three plays after stopping South Dakota State’s Brady Mengarelli cold on a kickoff return in the season opener, Singleton intercepted a tipped third-down pass, which set up junior Russell Hansbrough for an electrifying 10-yard touchdown run.
He also sealed a victory against Central Florida with a 60-yard fumble return for a touchdown last weekend.
“He’s missed a couple opportunities along the way that he’d like to have back, but it was nice to see him have a hustle play last week,” Missouri safeties coach Alex Grinch said. “Sometimes I forget, although he was a rotational guy and a special-teams guy for us last year, he had a hip injury toward the end of the year and didn’t play as much
“You’re talking about a guy that, in my mind, I probably think he has more experience than he actually does at this level. Every time out is really helping him and I think he should be gaining some confidence.”
Look for Singleton to play an even bigger role Saturday when the 18th-ranked Tigers welcome spread-happy Indiana for a 3 p.m. kickoff at Memorial Stadium.
“Years ago, nickel was maybe in on third down only,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. “Now, sometimes we play 70 percent nickel in a game just depending on the offenses we play. I’d suggest that he’ll be out there a lot.”
That, of course, is fine with Singleton.
“I love going against spread teams, because I know I’m going to be on the field,” Singleton said. “There’s a great opportunity to make plays and basically help my defense out the best I can.”
Defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said Singleton’s biggest adjustment has been learning his run fits in the Tigers’ gap-control defense.
With a year in Steckel’s system under his belt, Singleton said he’s grasping the various run-fit concepts better now.
“It’s definitely slowed down,” Singleton said. “I more comfortable with the defense and I know where I need to be, different things like that.”
Each week of experience only solidifies Singleton as a playmaker.
“It’s one thing to see it on video when somebody else is doing it,” Grinch said. “Now, it’s him doing it, so he can obviously learn from the film. It’s trending the right way, but he’s still got to get better.
“Based on the offenses that we’re facing, specifically going forward, we’re going to be in nickel quite a bit. We’ve been pleased so far, and he’s going to increase his production even more.”
One thing Missouri can count on, as that scar on his forehead attests, Singleton will be active in his pursuit of big plays.
“Absolutely, you’ve got to be,” Singleton said.