University of Missouri

Missouri’s Connor McGovern eager to begin NFL audition in earnest

MU offensive lineman Connor McGovern (right) and then-coach Gary Pinkel embraced after the Tigers beat BYU on Nov. 14 at Arrowhead Stadium.
MU offensive lineman Connor McGovern (right) and then-coach Gary Pinkel embraced after the Tigers beat BYU on Nov. 14 at Arrowhead Stadium.

As a senior for Missouri last season, Connor McGovern played out of position at left tackle.

He was the Tigers’ best option for the position, but he’d established himself the previous two seasons as a dominant force at right guard.

It’s no secret that his preference was to stay on the interior of Missouri’s offensive line, but McGovern took one for the team and turned in another typically strong campaign.

Of course, he’s not disappointed to move back inside for the Senior Bowl.

McGovern flew Monday to Mobile, Ala., where he and two other former Tigers — center Evan Boehm and linebacker Kentrell Brothers — will line up for the South squad in the premier exhibition game for graduating seniors at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

“I’m excited,” McGovern said. “It will be fun to strap the pads on again and go hit some people. … I hope that I can turn some heads and do some good things.”

McGovern — who was credited with the Missouri squat record last summer after doing five reps of 690 pounds, the equivalent of an 810-pound max — is rated as the ninth-best offensive guard in the 2016 NFL Draft by ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.

CBS Sports projects McGovern as a late-round pick when the NFL convenes in late April in Chicago for the ultimate human-cattle bazaar.

“Teams have been starting to contact me, and you have an agent who’s taking care of anything you need, so it’s definitely not college anymore,” McGovern said. “It’s starting to sink in. After the Senior Bowl and especially the (NFL) Combine, you’ll start to feel more like a professional athlete, I guess.”

McGovern expects to play guard at the next level, but he might work out at tackle or even center this week in Mobile if teams want to see him at those positions.

He’s most excited for a reunion alongside Boehm, with whom he has trained in Dallas over the last several weeks along with Notre Dame’s Nick Martin and Kansas State’s Cody Whitehair.

McGovern lined up shoulder to shoulder with Boehm, a Lee’s Summit West graduate, for 24 games during the 2013 and 2014 seasons. The two share a tremendous on-field bond.

“We’re both really excited to be playing next to each other again,” McGovern said. “We just have that chemistry already built up that a lot of guys don’t get to build up in three practices. It will be really nice to have for both of us. I think it will help us look better, because we’re going to be able to play better with all the confidence we’ll have next to each other.”

With a floundering offense, Missouri went 5-7 last season — a year that will be remembered more for quarterback Maty Mauk’s repeated suspensions, a brief player boycott amid racial unrest on campus and longtime coach Gary Pinkel’s abrupt retirement.

McGovern is glad for the chance to put it in the rearview mirror and focus on a new challenge.

“Evan and I had a lot of criticism this year being on the team that we were on and the record we had,” he said. “Even if you do play well, people don’t necessarily notice. It’ll be nice to go out and show what we have to offer.”

McGovern is eager to follow in the footsteps of the Seattle Seahawks’ Justin Britt and the Chiefs’ Mitch Morse, former Missouri offensive linemen who emerged as second-round picks the last two seasons with strong exhibition performances and workouts.

“The rumors I’ve heard, I’m kind of a sleeper,” McGovern said. “I played at a position that I wasn’t natural at, but I’m not worried about where they have me projected or anything like that. That will matter more after the Senior Bowl and after the combine once I bring everything to the table.”

Tod Palmer: 816-234-4389, @todpalmer