Nash dances into bigger role

Damien Nash won't lie. He's a good dancer -- on and off the field. But on the field, he had an electric touchdown against Colorado last week where he showed the promise everyone saw in him in high school. As Missouri prepares for Texas A&M, Nash has been improving and getting more and more playing time.

It was the Damien Nash everyone has expected for almost three years.

Nash took a pass from Missouri quarterback Brad Smith. He cut through people like they were mere obstacles in a maze. He broke tackles like Smith breaks records. He danced his way 48 yards to the end zone.

This was what Damien Nash was supposed to be, an electric running back to complement power back Zack Abron before he would eventually take over the reigns after Abron left. Instead, Nash had looked like any one of the myriad of running backs that had backed up Abron in the past three years.

But as Missouri hosts Texas A&M at 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nash hopes one big run in the fourth quarter at Colorado could help him settle into the role he wanted to have when he came to Missouri.

"It felt good," Nash said. "It felt like me back again. I just felt like myself again."

For the first eight games, Nash was reduced to a series or two a game, a far cry from what he had accomplished as one of St. Louis' best high school players. Nash was supposed to be one of coach Gary Pinkel's biggest recruits.

"Here's a guy who was a superstar in high school," Pinkel said. "He could go out there and that's his canvas. When he's got the ball in his hands, he can do about anything he wanted to do."

But Nash had to go to junior college because he didn't get the minimum ACT score. Then he tore his anterior crucial ligament in the first game at Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College.

So it was a long time coming to Missouri (6-3), but it didn't stop high expectations from Missouri fans, expectations Nash couldn't fulfill as he came back from the injury. Nash had been constantly stopped at the line at the opening of the season, and it forced Pinkel to take him out for the more consistent Abron. Nash, critics said, simply didn't hit the hole right away. He did too much dancing.

"When I first started getting back into football, I didn't make my decisions fast enough," Nash said. "That's what caused me to dance a little too much in the backfield."

But what they didn't realize is Nash is a pretty good dancer. Once he started to hit the hole, he could boogie on down after that. And when Smith hit him in the flats against Colorado, Nash really turned Folson Field into his own dance floor.

"I kept telling people that he was getting better every week," Pinkel said. "You saw him catch that screen pass. That's the guy. That's the guy we saw in high school."

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