Commentary

Staying in Show-Me State

Missouri wins first major battle against SEC foes with No. 1 WR's commitment

Updated: February 1, 2012, 6:10 PM ET
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN RecruitingNation

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- Four days before Dorial Green-Beckham stood at a podium on a basketball court at Hillcrest High School and announced he would play college football at Missouri, he sat courtside at Mizzou Arena.

As the Tigers faced Texas Tech, fans serenaded the nation's No. 1 high school receiver, No. 3 player overall and top uncommitted prospect with chants of "MIZ-DGB."

Somewhere above in the crowd, it befuddled his parents. Tracy Beckham turned to her husband, Hillcrest football coach John Beckham, and posed a question.

"What in the world are we living in?" she said.

John Beckham offered no explanation. He knew only, after his adopted son pondered the weekend visit to Columbia, Mo., for two days, that Green-Beckham felt most at home in that environment.

"It wasn't who had the biggest stadium or the most trophies in the trophy case," the high school coach said. "It really came down to that he felt very comfortable with the Missouri coaching staff and the people there."

So count this as the Tigers' first victory in the Southeastern Conference. And a big one, at that.

The 6-foot-6, 225-pound Green-Beckham chose the Tigers over Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma and Texas after breaking the national career receiving record with 6,353 yards. He unveiled his choice before a pro-Mizzou crowd of 1,500, some 20 television cameras and a national audience on ESPNU.

Green-Beckham provides a huge signing-day boost for Missouri, set to leave the Big 12 Conference for the SEC on July 1. Before Wednesday, Missouri sat outside ESPN's class rankings, which feature eight SEC schools among the list of 25 -- including Alabama, Florida and Georgia in the top five.

The Tigers were the first to offer a scholarship to Green-Beckham. Nearly every top program followed as he ascended to legendary status in southwest Missouri.

"I felt like they've been there since day one, since the start," Green-Beckham said, "so that's the right place for me."

As a senior, Green-Beckham caught 119 passes for 2,233 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Much speculation focused in the past month on Arkansas, the closest school of his finalists to Springfield. But Columbia is only about 20 miles farther.

In the end, the distance from home played a role.

"He's a homebody," Tracy Beckham said Wednesday. "We all like being together."

But other factors drove the decision, primarily the relationships, according to John Beckham. Arkansas took a hit in its bid for Green-Beckham in December when quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee left for Alabama-Birmingham.

"It really came down to the people he was going to be with," Beckham said.

"You have to understand, he's been recruited by these schools since he was a freshman, so he's built up quite a relationship with some of those people. To have to come in late with a month to go, that's a tough hill to climb."

Green-Beckham appeared most comfortable with the Missouri coaches in the final weeks of recruiting, his father said.

He made official visits to Missouri and Arkansas in the final two weeks after Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel visited Springfield in mid-January, landing a helicopter on the baseball field at Hillcrest.

He also made an official visit to Texas. UT coach Mack Brown called John Beckham, Dorial's high school coach and adoptive father, Tuesday afternoon to wish Green-Beckham well in college after learning he eliminated the Longhorns from contention.

Green-Beckham said he favored the home-state school Monday and slept on the decision. By Tuesday afternoon, he was certain.

"The Missouri Tigers were where I fit," he said. Mizzou may also offer him a chance to play multiple sports. Coaches at the school are open to him participating in basketball or track, he said.

Wednesday ended an intense period of recruiting for Green-Beckham, arguably the most coveted prospect of 2012, who counted his mail from college programs by the box load.

It was an arduous process, for sure.

"The bottom line is, he's signing and he's going to be just like everybody else," John Beckham said. "All this will be behind him. How he was recruited isn't going to matter anymore.

"But like I told one of the coaches a few weeks ago, he better catch a lot of passes, because a lot of people put a lot of effort into recruiting him."

Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mshermanespn@gmail.com. Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter: @mitchsherman