COLUMBIA, Mo. – In some ways, Kevin Pendleton has taken on the role of unofficial spokesperson for the Missouri football team.
The Tigers’ starting left guard is often the last player left during the football team’s media days, more than happy to answer questions about prior losses or fellow teammates or about things hardly football-related at all.
No one else in the Missouri program speaks as candidly or eloquently about the team as Pendleton. This quotability makes him a favorite amongst the press and earned him this year’s award for media tolerance, as voted by the team’s regular beat reporters.
“It’s because he can’t stop talking,” center Trystan Colon-Castillo said after a recent practice.
Pendleton’s affability won over more than reporters. It endeared him to his starting quarterback, Drew Lock, whose Missouri career started one year after Pendleton’s.
Lock quickly connected with Pendleton because both came to Columbia from Lee’s Summit. Lock attended Lee’s Summit High School, while Pendleton went to Lee’s Summit West.
“I had a couple buddies that played for West, so I always went to their playoff games when we weren’t in the playoffs,” Lock said. “I got to watch Kevin quite a bit in high school.”
During Lock’s freshman year, his talks with Pendleton about high school football were a taste of home in a foreign place.
“That’s one of the biggest things Kevin offered to me, whether he knew it or not, just having a familiar face, someone you know you can be close with and not have to worry about what’s this guy really thinking about me,” Lock said. “Kevin knows who I am. I know who Kevin was, where he grew up, who he played for, who his coaches were, how he got coached. It was just a level of comfortableness with someone that really helped me through my four years here.”
Pendleton had a similar impact even more in Columbia on his own offensive line. Colon-Castillo called him and former lineman Alec Abeln his “big brothers” when his Missouri career started three seasons ago.
Colon-Castillo said Pendleton’s awareness on the line was constantly alerting him to blitzes and defensive shifts.
“There’s probably a lot of calls this year offensively that I don’t make without him,” Colon-Castillo said. “That’s something this program is definitely going to miss is that good character, bringing energy every day, pushing guys to be their best.”
Pendleton’s teammates were happy to share their enduring memories of the big left guard. Lock used to sit across from him habitually on their frequent visits to G&D Pizzeria, and Lock still remembers Pendleton’s regular order: double chicken fingers, double fries and a small salad plate of ranch dressing, “every single time.”
During spring practices in 2017, the offensive line decided one morning to bring breakfast for morning meetings. The catered meal included donuts — which were off-limits for Pendleton, who was supposed to be cutting weight.
At one point in the morning, though, former offensive line coach Glen Elarbee caught Pendleton with a pastry and banned the line from ever bringing breakfast to meetings again. That inspired the line to start quoting a line from “Home Alone” on a regular basis, “Kevin, you are such a disease!”
“That got used so many times that week,” right tackle Paul Adams said.
Missouri’s offensive line will lose both Pendleton and Adams to graduation after this season. Pendleton, who graduated last spring, hopes to play professionally.
“I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” Pendleton said about the end of his college career. “I don’t think it will until we’re down in Memphis and the clock hits all zeroes. Every day I’m trying to do everything I can to make sure we end up with a (win) and those are good memories. I want to go out the right way with this group of guys and give them a little leapfrog into next year with some passion and some high momentum.”