Tommie Saunders could be playing elsewhere in Missouri right now.
After a stellar prep career in both basketball and football at Kearney High that drew scholarship offers from Division I-AA schools Southwest Missouri State and Northern Iowa--not to mention Central Missouri State--Saunders decided to walk on for the Tigers. He became part of an extremely athletic incoming group of freshmen receivers, including Jerrill Humphrey and William Franklin.
If he can prove to be a better receiver than that talented pair, Saunders would have to beat out half a dozen other established receivers. That is too much for a freshman walk-on to accomplish in one year, Saunders admits, saying he knows this year will be a redshirt season. For the next few months, Saunders will flash the hands that earned him attention from other schools with the Missouri scout team.
InsideMizzou had the chance to speak with Saunders recently. Here is a sampling of his comments.
On adjusting to the college game: "It's kind of tough to adjust at first. After the first couple practices, I got the hang of it."
On the differences of the game from high school to the Tigers: "It's a big difference, coming here and not knowing any of the plays and everything. Mostly, it's adjusting to the plays. After you start learning the plays, you have to adjust how you run the route different and everything."
On making a name for himself in the crowded and talented receiving corps: "It's difficult. You just gotta come in and work hard and not worry about what you are on the depth chart and just go out and work hard every day."
On where he might fit: "It's up to the coaches, really. I just go out and work hard, not really worrying about trying to earn a spot right now. I know I'm going to redshirt anyway, so I just go out and try to get better every day."
On why he walked on at Missouri: "After taking my visits, seeing the difference between Division and Division 1-AA and Division 2, it just made my decision that I wanted to go to Mizzou as a walk-on."
On his performance this fall: "It's been up and down. I'll make some good plays here and there, then I'll do some other things that aren't as good. Some of the routes, I'm not running perfect. I do alright whenever I'm getting the ball, but everything else when I'm not getting the ball, I'm not too good at. I'm just working hard at trying to get better at that."