NORMANDY, Mo. — Pennants hang from the ceiling of Lutheran North High School's counseling center. Row upon row of universities, colleges and service academies are represented. All potential destinations for current Crusaders.
Jack Buford sat beneath the pennants Wednesday afternoon and, like so many others, made his choice. Unlike so many other Crusaders, he did it in front of the media, assembled family, friends and had it broadcast live on the internet.
Unlike so many other area football talents, Buford decided to stay home. Lutheran North's highly rated senior offensive lineman verbally committed to the Missouri.
The 6-foot-5, 330-pound Buford pulled a gold hat from under the table, fixed it upon his head and told the world he wants to be a Tiger, words no area high school recruit has uttered the last two years.
“I am 110-percent committed to the University of Missouri,” Buford said to raucous applause.
Rated a four-star recruit by 247Sports.com and a three-star by Rivals.com, Buford, who will celebrate his 18th birthday Friday, is the highest-rated area recruit to commit to MU since East St. Louis defensive lineman Terry Beckner Jr. made his pledge in February 2015. East St. Louis' Tre'Vour Simms and Lafayette's Brendan Scales both signed in the winter of 2016.
“I wanted to be close to home. Just closer to my parents,” Buford said. “I didn't want to go that far away.”
He would have done that had the Tigers not turned up the heat in February. Buford received his official offer from MU in September of last year but was left wondering where he stood. He was not overwhelmed by the Tigers' recruiting pitch.
“At first, I wasn't sure about Mizzou because no one was really contacting me,” Buford said.
That all changed after Brad Davis and Derek Dooley joined coach Barry Odom's staff. Davis was brought on in December to coach the offensive line. Dooley was hired as the new offensive coordinator in January. Together, they went all in on Buford.
“I think when Brad Davis got in, that completely flipped his recruiting around and put Mizzou at the top almost instantly in his mind,” Lutheran North coach Carl Reed said. “Recruiting is all about following up, attention, aggressiveness from your position coach, and Brad Davis is a rising star. He played at Oklahoma. He played for some of the top minds in the game, and he had a clear vision for how he saw Jack.”
Buford chose MU from 32 scholarship offers that included Illinois, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Arkansas, Texas, Auburn and Florida.
Of all his choices, Buford said Oklahoma and Arkansas were two of the toughest to turn down. Lutheran North graduate Ronnie Perkins, the reigning All-Metro football defensive player of the year, signed with Oklahoma in December.
“That's my big brother,” Buford said. “Arkansas made it tough. I love their staff.”
The Tigers won out because they made Buford feel comfortable and loved.
"I didn't feel like I was being recruited. I felt like I was around family the whole time," he said. "That's what really sold me on them."
Now Buford can help sell everyone else on them, too. There is no shortage of talent in the St. Louis area's loaded 2019 class. Trinity senior quarterback Isaiah Williams, the state's top-rated recruit, committed to Illinois in March, but nearly every other ranked area recruit is still on the board. They can expect to hear from Buford along the way.
“I think it's important because Jack is a national recruit that could have gone anywhere in the country,” Reed said. “I think if it's good enough for him, then everybody has to look at it and at least give it an opportunity to work for them.”