At Mizzou, training the mind is just as important as training the body. While many programs across the country focus on the physical aspect of football, Mizzou is gaining a mental edge from nationally recognized sports psychologist Rick McGuire. In Thursday’s Mizzou Foundation meeting, the upperclassmen talked about the foundation behind Mizzou’s mental edge: whistle to snap. 

Between the whistle at the end of one play and the next snap, you have five seconds. Five seconds to put whatever just happened behind you and get ready for what’s to come.

To optimize that quick turnaround, Mizzou players take a four-step approach that involves “deactivating,” “parking it,” and “reactivating” to mentally prepare themselves for the play ahead.

Those five seconds are the difference between a good play and a bad play.

Whistle to snap is a confidence booster. If something goes wrong, just tell yourself, “I’m a good player. I know my assignment.”

“Just remember ‘I’m out here for a reason,’” defensive back Aarion Penton said. “Just clear your head. Move on to the next play.”

If you buy into it, it will take your game to another level and help you think right. When you think right, you experience optimal arousal: the perfect level of energy and the perfect mindset.

And when you experience optimal arousal, you make plays.

“It helped me telling myself I would make plays,” defensive lineman Markus Golden said. “I remember telling Darvin (Ruise) he was going to force a fumble. Next play, he forced a fumble.”

But whistle to snap isn’t an easy concept to master. Just like anything, it takes practice, but that practice pays off in the long run.

“You have to put it into practice as a freshman even if you might not use it for awhile,” linebacker Darvin Ruise said.

“The younger you are and the more you buy into it the more it will help you,” tailback Marcus Murphy said. “Grasp this and buy into it right now!”

Be in the moment. Move on, focus, prepare. Every play. Whistle to snap.

Twenty-three members of the Mizzou Football Family received their Varsity M letter jackets at a ceremony at the Reynolds Alumni Center on Feb. 25.

The jackets were sponsored by the Varsity M Association, with is affiliated with the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and an affinity group of the Mizzou Alumni Association.

The letter jacket ceremony included all 20 Mizzou Varsity sports.

In the Winning Edge Program, the Mizzou Tigers take part in the infamous mat drills.

Mat drills focus on quick bursts, speed and explosion. Each drill is approximately six seconds long, and perfection is demanded. If it isn’t achieved, the drill is repeated.

Although they are extremely grueling, there is method to the madness. And of course, like in everything Mizzou does, there are no excuses.

“There are no excuses, there are no substitutions, there is no reason why you can’t perform with excellence,” Defensive Line Coach Craig Kuligowski said. “If you do, you’re rewarded. If you do not, your whole group goes back, and we’ve got to repeat it again. This is about doing what you’re supposed to do, as fast as you can do it, for as long as you’re supposed to do it, better than you ever thought you could do it before.”

As much as they increase physical strength and stamina, mat drills, maybe more than anything, build mental toughness.

“I think the biggest things in the mat drills are toughness, finishing and maximum effort,” Defensive Coordinator Josh Henson said. “When you get tired, can you keep doing it? You’re just pushing yourself mentally where you haven’t been before.”

And when you’re mentally tough, you don’t lose focus and you don’t compromise form, no matter how exhausted you might be. At the end of the day, that can be the difference between a win and a loss.

“When you get tired, usually the first things that go are the details,” Henson said. “You miss doing the little things, and many times, it’s the little things that are going to make the difference in winning and losing a football game. Whether that’s technique, your assignment, whatever it is. How many plays do you see that are missed by an inch or two? That’s what the mat drills are all about: doing all the little things right.”

Mizzou Tigers Associate Head Coach Andy Hill is a well-known Tiger legend. Hill is a 1980 graduate of Trenton High School, where he set several school records — third-leading receiver in career touchdowns and fourth in career receptions. After high school, Hill walked onto the 1980 Mizzou squad as a freshman, and he lettered in the following three years of his college career.

After college, Hill took up his position as graduate assistant coach at Southern Methodist University. After that, he took over as offensive coordinator at Hutchinson Community College before joining the Mizzou Tigers staff in 1996.

He is currently the longest tenured coach in Mizzou history and is a member of the 2014 Missouri Sports Hall of Fame. That is quite the accolade!

The Mizzou Football Family held their weekly foundation meeting on Tuesday to focus on what it means to be a Mizzou Tiger.

This week’s topic was the Team Bottom Line, which everyone says as a group before each practice and game.

Team Bottom Line:

  • Enthusiastic
  • 6-Second Competitors
  • Know Your Assignment
  • Play Tough and Physical

First and foremost, they stressed the importance of enthusiasm. If you are a member of the Mizzou football team, you are enthusiastic about everything in life. No matter how difficult the situation, if you embrace it, it becomes easier.

“During morning workouts and Winnine Edge, we are just as tired as everyone else. But you can’t focus on being tired,” wide receiver Jimmie Hunt said. “Be enthusiastic and give that M-I-Z call. If I look across the field and the defender looks tired, I’m going to take advantage of that.”

“It’s all about being part of Mizzou football,” tailback Marcus Murphy said. “I’ve been playing since I was four, and if you’re excited about it, it makes it even more worthwhile.”

Along with being enthusiastic, every Mizzou football player is a six-second competitor. If you focus on one play at a time and deliver your best during those six seconds, you will have a positive impact on the game.

But before you compete, you must know your assignment.

“It’s plain and simple. If you don’t know your assignment and know what you’re doing, then you won’t play,” wide receiver Darius White said. “The more you focus on what you have to do rather than worrying about everything else, the more you will accomplish.”

And lastly, in order to compete in and win the best conference in college football, you must be tough, and you must be physical.

“If you don’t play tough and physical you’re in the wrong league,” said safety Braylon Webb. “You shouldn’t be playing football.”

“I don’t want to be lined up with someone playing soft,” said Murphy. “I want to be with everyone who plays hard every play.”

Bottom line: This is the next level. You have to play tough and physical. Go out there and deliver.

“You have to approach every great achievement in a state of Total Confidence. YOU MUST BELIEVE!” – Coach Gary Pinkel

***

It always helps to have someone to encourage you when times are hard or when you are about to give up, but those who have tasted true success learned that their number one source of confidence must come from within themselves. Even when the world is crashing all around you, you still have yourself and your values.

Here are the traits you need to be successful, or what we call a “self starter.”

Competitive Greatness:

You must be at your best when your best is needed. To do so, you must learn to enjoy a difficult challenge.

Condition:

There are three things—mental, moral, and physical. Rest, exercise and diet must be considered. Moderation must be practiced. Lastly, dissipation must be eliminated.

Skill:

We mean both natural and the learned. Skill is the knowledge of and the ability to properly and quickly execute the fundamentals. Be prepared, and cover every little detail.

Team spirit:

This is what Mizzou is all about—family. A genuine consideration is prominent for success. An eagerness to sacrifice personal interests of glory for the welfare of all is what truly matters.

Self-control:

Practice self-discipline and keep emotions under control. Good judgment and common sense are the initial and final traits of creating a habit of self-control.

Confidence:

As previously stated, confidence must come from within. Confidence is not natural, it is learned—a choice. Respect without fear often comes from being prepared and keeping all things in proper perspective.

Confidence is what allows you to have competitive greatness, condition, skill, team spirit and self-control, and yet, without those five things, you cannot have confidence. It is all a process.

You must remember that confidence is two choices:

  1. Competence builds confidence. First, choose to become more competent. Bring your best focus to practice every day.
  2. Focus confidence on your performance, not the outcome. Confidence is about your upcoming performance, not the outcome! Choose to be focused on and confident about your performance.

The question you must ask yourself, and you have to be honest with yourself, is WHERE ARE YOU? Where are you right now? Which of these things do you have to work on? Remember that there will always be something to work on. Success shouldn’t stop. Therefore you have to be in the moment—RIGHT HERE! RIGHT NOW!

From the whistle to the snap, you must always be focused. How badly do you want it? How confident are you that you can get it? Are you going to let doubt, worry, anxiety and fear stop you from achieving your goals? More importantly, what about the team’s goals? Think positive. Think with confidence.

Confidence is a choice.

On Sunday, birthday boy E.J. Gaines sat down with Kat Lucchesi to talk about the Combine and what he’s been doing to prepare for it.

Since Mizzou’s Cotton Bowl victory in January, Gaines has been training at Fisher Sports in Phoenix, Ariz.

During his preparation, one thing has gotten him through the grueling drills and workouts: No excuses. It is Mizzou’s central motto, and it is the driving force behind everything we do. It is a philosophy that applies not only to football, but also to life. Gaines and his teammates don’t make excuses, and that is why they are competing and excelling at the NFL Combine.

The defensive back’s favorite part about the Combine so far has been all the free gear that he’s received.

“The shoes, the clothes, the hoodies, all that is cool,” Gaines said. “We got to go through the Nike store, the Adidas store and the Under Armour store and just check a lot of stuff out.”

Aside from all the new equipment he’s picked up, Gaines has been doing a lot of interviews since he arrived in Indianapolis. He says that the leadership skills and confidence he gained from being a captain at Mizzou have helped him nail each one.

And despite all the fun he’s having, Gaines has message for Mizzou Nation.

“I miss y’all,” Gaines said. “M-I-Z.”

Gaines got 15 reps on the bench press today. He will not participate in on-field workouts Tuesday, but will take-part in Mizzou’s Pro Day on March 20 in Columbia, Mo.

Mizzou wideout Marcus Lucas caught up with Kat Lucchesi on Saturday after his bench press to talk about his experience at the combine so far.

Mizzou has a great history of sending impact receivers to the NFL, and Lucas is hoping to continue that pipeline this year.

“There’s a great tradition going on from Mizzou with receivers making an impact in the NFL, you know, not just getting there, but actually getting minutes and playing and being successful in the NFL,” Lucas said. “I have a lot of big shoes to fill, and it’s great to have me and L’Damian here continuing that tradition for the younger guys to come.”

One reason that Mizzou has had such a rich history of successful NFL receivers is the time coaches spend preparing players every week, physically and mentally. The countless hours that Lucas spent in the weight room, film room and on the practice field while at Mizzou have made the combine workouts and drills seem second nature.

“With Coach Ivey and the strength staff, it’s very instilled in me and all the players that are here that nothing comes free,” said Lucas. “It’s a lot of hard work and sacrifice that makes you great, and that’s where the difference is. With the time that we’ve put in, it makes all this stuff pretty easy.”

Lucas completed his on-field workout this afternoon. Here’s how the Mizzou Made receiver did:

40-Yard Dash – 4.6 seconds

Bench Press – 20 reps

Vertical Jump – 36.0 inches

Broad Jump – 24.0 inches

Amidst all the chaos of the NFL Combine, Kat Lucchesi was able to grab Mizzou Made defensive end Kony Ealy for a quick interview.

Like the rest of his Mizzou teammates at the combine, Ealy has been busy training since the Tigers’ Cotton Bowl victory on January 4th.

Coming out of high school in New Madrid, Mo., Ealy didn’t think he’d be participating in the NFL Combine four years later. But that isn’t because he didn’t think he was good enough.

“I thought I was going to be in the NBA,” Ealy said. “I was a basketball player. I loved basketball. But I chose to play football and I chose to put all my effort into it, and this is the outcome.”

Mizzou has had the most defensive lineman drafted in the first round since 2009, including guys like Aldon Smith and Sheldon Richardson, who was last year’s 13th overall pick. Ealy is looking to add another name to that list this year.

“Just to be amongst names like Sheldon, Aldon and Justin Smith is an honor,” Ealy said. “I just want to go out there and do what I can for everyone to see so people know that, at Missouri, we’ve got hard working people, and it shows, and it’s going to continue to show.”

When asked how Mizzou has helped prepare him for this moment, Ealy praised the coaching staff and their exemplary knowledge, because, thanks to them, his transition from college to the pros has been a smooth one.

“Everything they prepare us for, a lot of guys from other schools don’t have that, and when they get here, they don’t know what to expect,” Ealy said. “When I see something that I know we’ve been taught at Missouri, it kind of makes me feel at home.”

Ealy did his drills for the NFL combine from 9-11 a.m. Monday.

The Mizzou Made defensive end’s three-cone drill time of 6.83 seconds was the fastest among all defensive lineman. Here’s how he did in the rest of the drills:

40-Yard Dash – 4.92 seconds

Bench Press – 22 reps

Vertical Jump – 31.0 inches

Broad Jump – 114.0 inches

Cotton Bowl MVP Henry Josey caught up with Kat Lucchesi to share his experience at the combine thus far and what he’s done since the end of the season to prepare for it.

Like his teammates Justin Britt and L’Damian Washingtion, Josey was also training under the sun in Florida.

While in Florida, Josey got to train and hang out with teammate James Franklin, as well as go out to dinner with former Mizzou Tigers Jerrell Jackson and Michael Egnew.

The tests and drills done at Mizzou are very similar to that done by NFL teams. Because of this, the drills at the combine are like second-nature to Josey.

“Everything we did training there, it just reflects here so much,” Josey said. “It’s like, hey I’ve done this before, so it’s easy to me, and I don’t have to think about anything. I just come out here, do what I love to do and have fun with it.”

Josey arrived in Indianapolis at 11:30 on Thursday, and the thing he’s enjoyed most so far is meeting and hanging out with his fellow combine participants.

“There’s so many great players here, you’re around all these competitors that are just top notch guys,” Josey said. “So just being around them, and just having fun with them, enjoying the process of everything. There’s so many smiling faces. I haven’t seen a sad or mad person the whole time.”

And despite the smile that’s always on the running back’s face, he wants Mizzou fans to know that nothing can replicate the joy that they brought him during his four years in Columbia.

“Mizzou fans, I love you guys to death,” Josey said, “I really miss you guys and I cannot wait to come back and see you guys, The main thing I want you guys to know is, I’m always going to be a Tiger… I love Mizzou. M-I-Z Z-O-U.”

Josey completed his on-field work out Sunday afternoon and was a top performer. He finished in the top 10 in the 40-yard dash and bench press. Here are his full results:

40-Yard Dash – 4.43 seconds

Bench Press – 20 reps

Vertical Jump – 34.5 inches

Broad Jump – 118.0 inches