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Former Rock Bridge Bruin felt the pull to return home

Former Rock Bridge Bruin felt the pull to return home

August 10th, 2018 by Colin O'Brien in College Sports

Missouri wide receiver Alex Ofodile catches a pass during practice earlier this month in Columbia.

Photo by Associated Press /News Tribune.

COLUMBIA — At first, Tre Williams didn't believe Alex Ofodile was coming home.

The former Oregon wide receiver liked to joke around, especially with his old Rock Bridge teammate, so Williams assumed this was just another gag.

Then Ofodile showed up in Columbia, and not just for summer vacation. Now they're roommates.

"Yeah, a little family reunion," the redshirt sophomore defensive end said. "It's good to have Alex back, because it reminds me of the old days we used to have, back at the Bridge."

Ofodile was one of the state's best prospects in the 2015 class, and was drawn to the pass-happy Pac-12 and the Ducks' spread option under Mark Helfrich. He graduated high school early and enrolled to get a jump on things through spring ball, but his health — he broke his foot twice and suffered several hamstring injuries — kept him off the field and out of the record books.

Ofodile finished his three years in Eugene with four receptions for 31 yards. But he graduated in those three years, giving him two years to play two seasons for Missouri while also pursuing a Masters in Educational and Counseling Psychology.

He said he felt down at times, with his family and home halfway across the country, but a '573' tattoo — the area code for the eastern half of Missouri excluding St. Louis — on his right bicep served as a continual reminder of where he came from and, eventually, where he'd return.

"Just having the support of my family and everybody back in Columbia, it kinda got me through it," Ofodile said. "Just happy to be back here around those people."

Now, back in Columbia, he is helping fellow former Duck and current Tiger Khalil Oliver adjust.

"It's nice, yeah," Oliver, a defensive back, said. "He's my roommate. He's been showing me some spots and stuff like that, and everybody else has been pretty welcoming, so it's been pretty easy."

Oliver and Ofodile hung out at Ofodile's place in Eugene often, and the two talked about transferring. Alex told his father, A.J., of his plans, but Oliver was the first to announce his decision to transfer to Missouri. The Tigers entered the offseason open at safety, and that, plus the conversations Oliver had with head coach Barry Odom and defensive coordinator/defensive backs coach Ryan Walters, who also played defensive back in the Pac-12 (then the Pac-10), made it an attractive opportunity.

Odom, who knew Alex from a young age through A.J., was his first college offer while Odom was still at Memphis. Alex Ofodile turned him down, but Odom got the last laugh in a field where you've got to get good at hearing 'no' from 18-year-olds.

"The first day I came here, he told me, 'I told you it was going to happen,'" Ofodile said.

A.J. Ofodile finished up the 2015 season at Rock Bridge without his son, and then took a position with the Tigers as recruiting coordinator, something he was skilled in. Odom named A.J. his wide receivers coach in January, Alex announced his return three months later, and the rest happened easily.

"For me, I was all for it," the elder Ofodile said. "You just never know with the numbers and the situations, and sometimes things fall into place the right way, and they did. He did a great job of working hard and getting himself graduated, so that was a big piece of the puzzle too, but it was exciting when everything fell together."

Alex Ofodile is currently second on the depth chart behind Emanuel Hall, and is no stranger to the deep ball: he set Class 5 records for career receptions and yards, and caught 96 passes for more than 1,600 yards his senior season. He had a big game against Jefferson City, totaling 186 yards and a score on 14 catches in a 2014 game at Adkins Stadium.

The Tigers are easing him back to make sure he stays healthy and can fully execute the offense, but if he can put together anything close to his high school numbers, Ofodile and Hall will give opposing secondaries precious little time to catch their breath.