Missouri football’s early enrollees reflect on leaving high school early

March 10, 2019

Wide receiver C.J. Boone ditched gaming for napping when he enrolled at Missouri in January.

By the time he finishes class, assignments, tutoring, football practices and workouts, Boone usually doesn’t have the energy to play video games.

“I just want to sleep when I am home,” he said.

Boone probably would not have said the same just a few months ago as a senior in high school. Video games were a staple of his after-school routine. Boone, however, gave up this lighterschedule when he decided to leave high school and enroll early at MU.

And he’s not alone. Boone is one of five Missouri football players who enrolled ahead of time to get a jump-start on their college football careers. The decision leaves less time for goodbyes — a difficult yet necessary product of getting a head start on a dream.

“I think for us, it’s a bigger goal,” Boone said. “Instead of being back in high school right now, kind of hanging out and playing around, the guys who came here early, we’ve just got stuff to handle.”

Defensive tackle Darius Robinson is grateful he made the decision to leave high school early. It came with an additional cost for him, though, dropping basketball midway through his final high school season.

“All good things have to come to an end,” Robinson said. “That was tough, but I’m just excited to be here.”

The sacrifices extend past friendships and activities. Cornerback Ishmael Burdine gave up home-cooked meals much sooner than he would have liked. But even as he cooks for himself on weekends, frequently making his go-to meal of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Burdine said he is glad he made the decision.

“To be honest, I don’t think I am missing out on anything,” he said. “I am out here, chasing my dreams, trying to go to the next level.”

He doesn’t feel as if he is missing out because of what he is taking part while in Columbia. He, along with the other four, needed to say some of those premature and sometimes difficult goodbyes so that they could say new and unexpected hellos.

The five true freshmen started introductions with a group chat. Then, they moved in together. Burdine is living with Robinson. Jalani Williams, Chris Shearin and Boone stay in another apartment.

Rivalries have already formed. Burdine will tell you he is better than Robinson at pool when they play at the student center. Robinson will say the opposite. They also frequently play Ping-Pong — advantage, Robinson — and “NBA 2K” —advantage, Burdine.

“I don’t know how he does it,” Robinson said. “He gets Steph Curry every time, and I can’t stop him.”

Outside of games, the freshmen are enjoying the college setup and schedule, even if it ’s more arduous. Robinson said he likes having his own space, and Boone said he likes the difference in his class schedule compared to high school. He enjoys having classes mixed throughout the day with football responsibilities instead of sitting in class all day.

The football staff has tried to make the transition easier for them. It has helped Boone and the other freshmen figure out how to navigate their class and tutoring schedules while facilitating exposure to the playbook.

“We have to make sure we are pretty direct in making sure we don’t let time go by and just blend them in and say they are OK,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “They are getting ready for, usually (high school dances) and all that stuff now.”

Some still are. Some high school events remain on the calendar. Spring practices will end on April 11 and the spring game on April 13. Some of the five players will head home for prom. They will also have a chance to go home to walk at graduation.

“Then,” Boone said, “I will be heading back here to keep working.”

Working, then napping. It’s doubtful he will have time for gaming. Only high school C.J. Boone did. He wouldn’t want it any other way, though.

College C.J. Boone is chasing his dream.

Missourian reporter Bennett Durando contributed to this story.

Supervising editor is Theo DeRosa.