An hour after Missouri’s season-opening win against Southeast Missouri, coach Gary Pinkel looked on as trainer Rex Sharp wrapped up senior center Evan Boehm’s badly sprained right ankle.
“Listen, you guys do whatever you got to do to me. I’m playing football,” Boehm said. “I’m not skipping any games my senior season.”
The response back — “We’ll see what happens” — was unacceptable to Boehm, who started at left guard as a true freshman in 2012, then moved to center as a sophomore and emerged as one of the nation’s best interior linemen.
“No, we’re not going to see what happens,” said Boehm, a Lee’s Summit West graduate. “I’m telling you, I’m going to do what I need to do to get back and be able to play on Saturday.”
Offensive line coach A.J. Ricker freely admits now that Boehm probably should have taken a few games off, and Boehm’s father, Royce, tried to convince him to get healthy for remainder of the season.
Boehm was having none of it.
He has started every game of his college career, a claim precious few players can ever make.
When he trots onto the field with Missouri’s offense shortly after 6:15 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium, he’ll make his 51st consecutive start — breaking a tie with Carl Gettis, Adam Spieker and Martin Rucker for the Tigers’ all-time record.
It’s been a goal for Boehm for as long as anyone can remember. And given his “Mr. Mizzou” persona, it’s a record he deserves if anyone does.
“It’s an awesome record for him to have, and he’s earned it,” senior left tackle Connor McGovern said. “He’s put a lot of time and effort into it. … He loves Mizzou, so it definitely makes sense for a guy like him to have it. We all love ‘The Zou,’ but he was born and raised a Mizzou fan. I think they were his first offer in eighth grade and that kind of stuff, so it’s definitely fitting for a guy like that to have that record.”
Offensive linemen lead largely anonymous existences. Their names aren’t in the box scores, and no position-specific records are tracked.
The consecutive-start record leaves an indelible mark that reflects Boehm’s importance on some of MU’s best teams.
“To start as a true freshman, especially on the offensive line, is very difficult,” said MU associate head coach/quarterbacks coach Andy Hill, who started recruiting Boehm in middle school. “There’s got to be talent level, physical ability and also an opening to go play. It’s hard to say a guy will start 51 (consecutive games). That’s pretty cool. That’s hard to fathom, and that’s a lot of football games.”
Ricker, who once held Missouri’s record at 47 consecutive starts, agreed.
“It’s really impressive, and it’s a little bit of luck, too,” he said. “Obviously, playing offensive line and staying healthy, that’s a lot of games. When I had 47 and I had the record, I was like, ‘Man, that’s a lot of games,’ and he blows it out of the water.”
Boehm’s football career is far from finished. He has accepted an invitation to the Senior Bowl, is a near lock for selection to the NFL Combine and probably will get picked in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Of course, Boehm, who wears his love for Mizzou in the form of an old-school Truman the Tiger logo he tattooed on his chest, will always keep his alma mater close to his heart.
“These past four years have been phenomenal to me, and I’m very blessed to be able to do the things that I’ve been able to do here,” Boehm said.
As his career winds down, Boehm recalled a conversation last Senior Day with Kevin Morse, the father of Chiefs center Mitch Morse: “Evan, don’t blink twice. You blink the first time, and your summer’s over. You blink the second time, and your season’s over.”
Missouri, at 5-5, hasn’t had the dream season that Boehm initially envisioned, but he takes pride in his career and the guts this squad has shown.
Adversity — whether it was quarterback Maty Mauk’s suspension; a four-game losing skid; the unrest on campus in recent weeks, including a brief player boycott; or Pinkel’s announcement that he has cancer and will resign after the season — has pounded the Tigers like waves on a beach.
“God has a plan for everything,” said Boehm, who also has an angel and cross with Philippians 4:13 tattooed on his back. “I think God put us in the situation this year with everything that happened, and he wanted to see the way we fought and the way we prevailed through that stuff. It’s been tough. It’s been a tough season.”
It’s also one he’ll never forget, including a moment to cherish on Senior Night when he goes into Missouri’s record book.
“When you take a step back and look at it, who doesn’t want to have their name in the record book?” said junior linebacker Michael Scherer, who lives with Boehm. “Who doesn’t want to be the best at something or have the most of something? I hope I can someday be on one of the top tackle lists. Everybody wants something. You got to have something to hang your hat on.”
The NFL stopped the Chiefs-Broncos game Sunday to recognize Denver quarterback Peyton Manning when he broke the all-time passing record Sunday, but Boehm wants no such fuss.
“I’ve been an offensive lineman,” he said. “I don’t need that. … For sure, it’s in the back of my mind that it’s going to be a special day, and it’s going to be a special moment in my lifetime, but I have to worry about going out there and playing football first.”