Kearney senior Cale Garrett strolled into a kickboxing class Saturday morning, less than a week before his signature was set to map out the next four years of his life. He had convinced himself he was satisfied with a decision to attend Navy on a football scholarship, but something still felt, well, off.
“I always wanted to go to Mizzou,” he said. “That was my dream school.”
As so it happened, in the middle of the kickboxing class — which Garrett was teaching, by the way — Kearney football coach Greg Jones walked in the front door. He instructed Garrett to drive home for a sit-down meeting with his mom.
The first words out of Jones’ mouth gave away the news.
“When he said ‘Missouri called,’ I knew what it was. They had finally offered me,” Garrett said. “It was crazy. I was just really excited.”
Within a matter of minutes, Garrett and his mother drove to Columbia, where they met with Missouri coach Barry Odom and associate coach Andy Hill. Garrett, a linebacker, accepted the offer before the visit was done.
“I made up my mind on the way down there, to be honest,” he said.
“It was really supposed to be a boring day for me. I didn’t have anything planned — and then suddenly I had everything planned.”
For two years, Garrett said he had virtually begged the Missouri coaching staff to make him a scholarship offer. But the coaches supplied an all-too-familiar response: He was too slow for the Southeastern Conference.
That tune changed around 7:15 a.m. Saturday morning, when Odom texted Hill and suggested he make a late offer to Garrett, the all-time leading tackler in Kearney history and two-time Missouri Class 4 defensive player of the year.
“He had a good opportunity to go somewhere else,” Hill said, “but the fact that he was able to say, ‘Hey, Missouri’s always been the school I wanted to go to,’ and overcome the fact the offer came so late in a short time frame says a lot about him, too.”
Garrett follows a distinguished list of former Kearney Bulldogs at Missouri — Beau Brinkley, Tommie Saunders, Brocker Christopher and Tanner Owen — many of whom enjoyed successful careers there.
Garrett completed his high school career by leading Kearney to the Missouri Class 4 state championship. He had 160 tackles, most in team history, and won the Bobby Bell Award, reserved for the best small-class lineman or linebacker in Kansas City.
“I see intelligence. I see toughness,” Hill said. “If you ask him to run through a wall, he’ll take a jackhammer with him. He’s also got great (instincts). There’s a lot to like there.”
The Star’s Tod Palmer contributed to this report