By: Nate Smith
Columbia, MO
Twitter: @NateSmithNBA

The Missouri Tigers will round out their 2019 season with a trip to Arkansas to take on the Razorbacks. While most of the players and coaches will be spending Thanksgiving away from their families, one Tiger will feel like he’s right at home. Missouri wide receiver Barrett Banister hails from the city of Fayetteville, the site of the University of Arkansas. While this game will take place in Little Rock, Banister will have plenty of friends and family members in attendance nonetheless. “It’s a really important game to me. I don’t really like (Arkansas) that much. I wanna go down to Little Rock and I wanna play the best game we’ve played all year, and I wanna get win number six for this program. But it’s about Mizzou, it’s not about me. That’s what it’s always gonna be about…it’s about the seniors, it’s about my teammates, it’s about the fans that support us.”

Banister told ABC 17’s Tyler Murray before the season, “I always wanted to come in and prove that I could do it at this level.” Banister was able to capitalize in Missouri’s home opener, scoring his first career touchdown as the Tigers rolled to a 38-7 win over West Virginia. As the season progressed, Banister once again proved he could not only compete—but also succeed—at this level. Recent injuries to the Tigers’ receiving core resulted in Johnathon Johnson and tight end Albert Okwuegbunam both missing time. With both players out in the Tennessee game, Banister, who is listed as Johnson’s direct backup at slot receiver, stepped up in a big way. Banister finished with five catches for 46 yards, leading the team in both categories. 

Missouri Offensive Coordinator Derek Dooley has clearly taken note of Banister’s performance this season, speaking very highly of his receiver during Monday’s media availability. “I’ve always felt like your goal as a player is to go and develop into being the best version of yourself, being the best you can be. I don’t think there is anybody else on our team who does as good (of a) job every day of working to be his absolute best. He really is an inspiration, he should be an inspiration for everyone. On offense, our big thing is you gotta know what to do, you gotta know how to do it, (and you have to know) why it is important to do it that way. And you’ve gotta do it with tremendous effort and toughness. (Barrett) follows that model (with) everything that we do, and it’s because of that, that he has had the success that he’s had. Even though you could sit there and say he doesn’t have some of the physical traits of some of the other guys we have, but he’s a ten times better football player…it’s important to him, he loves the game. He’s not out there trying to be cool, (and) he’s not complaining about anything we have to do.” 

Banister, a former walk-on prior to earning a scholarship, offered this when asked about Dooley’s influence and the relationship between player and coach: “You know Coach Dooley was a former walk-on at Virginia, and just kind of talking with him about his experience through that and just kind of how it’s a similar path that we’ve kind of gone on…and for him to kind of put faith (in me) and trust in me, and for me to have to work and earn that, it’s been a real reward to do that…and I just appreciate him doing that, you know, (I’m just going to) give it everything I’ve got and so I really appreciate him and all that he’s invested in me.” 

Regardless of the injury status of his teammates, Banister figures to once again play a big role in Dooley’s offensive game plan on Friday against Arkansas. Banister said he expects to have around fifteen to twenty family members in attendance, and dozens of friends and former classmates in the stands. “(Arkansas is) a team I grew up watching my entire life…(I have) a lot of friends that play for that team. (I have) a lot of connections to that whole entire program and that state.” I asked Banister how he goes about making that a positive thing, and not letting it become a distraction. Banister said “you know, that’s a good question”, before pausing, reflecting, and responding. “I think the biggest thing is just kind of acknowledging what you’re still doing like why you’re still doing this, if that makes sense. You know, I came here to play a football game and that’s it, and that’s how (I have to) approach this. I can’t approach this week any different than I have before or I’m going to put myself in trouble. I’ve gotta (stick to) my routine and, you know, at the end of the day, those family and friends were the same ones that watched me in high school. And so, it’ll just be like, they’re out there watching me again, it’s just that they will probably be cheering for a different team this time, instead of mine.”

The game between Missouri and Arkansas will take place in Little Rock at War Memorial Stadium, a place that Banister is no stranger to. In his sophomore year of high school, his school lost the state championship there, before going on to win the title in back to back years as Banister and Missouri backup quarterback Taylor Powell rounded out their careers as Fayetteville Bulldogs. “I’m pretty familiar with that place. Apparently, they got new turf and all that. It should be a familiar environment, I’m excited for it, this game (has been) marked on my schedule (for) the entire year, so I’m pumped. Asked for more insight on the subject, Banister commented “I know a lot of (the) ins and outs of that program…ya know, (I have a lot of good friends on that team) and I know some of the coaches on that team…it’s a personal game for me.”

Banister, Powell, and their Tigers’ teammates will look to end the season on a positive note by defeating the Razorbacks on Friday in the annual ‘Battle Line Rivalry’ game.