There is little doubt that the running back position was a major focus of the Missouri coaching staff as the Class of 2009 heads down the home stretch. On Sunday night, Kendial Lawrence delivered some good news on that front.
At 10:16, Lawrence picked up an all-black Missouri hat. With that, he became the 23rd known commitment for the Tigers.
He chose the Tigers over Iowa State, Louisville and home town SMU, which were also represented by hats at his announcement.
"I fell in love with it on my visit. It was like home all over again," Lawrence said. "The coaches and the players made me feel like I was at home. The atmosphere was really nice."
While Lawrence chose to be a Tiger, it was no easy decision. He visited Columbia before Christmas and has been relatively quiet since the trip.
Lawrence at his announcement ceremony.
"I like everything about each of them from the coaches to the players to the towns to the hospitality," Lawrence said of his final four. "It was all grade A. That's why the decision took me a while. I wanted to really think about it and talk it over with my family. I wanted all their opinions so it would be easy to make my decision."
Lawrence stressed throughout the process that his family's input was important.
"They wanted me to get out and explore new things," he said. "Wherever I went, whether it was close or far away, they were behind me all the way."
Kendrick Lawrence, Kendial's father, backed his son up.
"Oh, yeah, we're very proud of him tonight," Kendrick said. "I think as far as the depth chart on the position that he's assuming. He didn't want to be fourth, fifth running back. The system that Mizzou runs is kind of like what they run in Rockwall-Heath. That's what he really wants. SMU, I think it's a great school, but they're rebuilding right now."
Lawrence ran for 2,679 yards and 43 touchdowns as a senior at Rockwall Heath High School. Those numbers and 4.43 speed have him as the nation's highest-rated three-star running back according to Rivals.com.
Lawrence becomes the first running back commitment in Missouri's class. And, unlike many prospects, the fact that the Tigers weren't close to home was a major factor in their favor.
"The one thing Missouri had over SMU is that it was a different town," Lawrence said. "I want to go out and explore."
"It's a blessing," he said. "Not everyone gets to do this. To be able to come out here and be with all my friends and make my decision, it's a blessing."
Any first words for Tiger fans?
"I just hope I can contribute to their program."