Lindsey Drinkwitz said it felt like a month ago that she and her husband started to seriously consider a move.

In reality, it was Saturday night when the dialogue started between Lindsey and her high school sweetheart, new Missouri head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz, about packing up and moving back to the Midwest.

After Eliah’s first season in charge of Appalachian State drew attention for its success, his name emerged on a national scale. When Missouri began seeking its next head coach after firing Barry Odom on Nov. 30, the 36-year-old's interest was piqued.

He still had a Sun Belt Conference championship game to coach and didn’t want to meet with other programs until afterward.

Following initial phone conversations, however, representatives from MU traveled to North Carolina to make their pitch Saturday night.

“My initial reaction to him was off of a phone call,” MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright said of Drinkwitz. “And then I believed this is someone we should seriously consider as coach. Once I got to know him more on Saturday, and even Sunday and Monday, I had opportunities to meet with him more and we knew that’s who we were going with. Every time I meet with him, I feel even better about our decision, honestly.”

“We really wanted him," Tigers athletic director Jim Sterk said. "We felt like he was the right guy. He wanted to come. We made sure we brought him back.”

There was just one roadblock to meeting with Eliah in person Saturday night. His first obligation was to attend his daughter’s ballet performance of The Nutcracker just hours after winning the Sun Belt title. He honored that commitment but left early to meet with the MU contingent.

Back at the Drinkwitz household, Lindsey and the couple’s four daughters (aged 9 years to 2 months old) had a full house of guests that included Eliah’s parents, brother, sister-in-law and his brother’s kids. Lindsey also had few friends in town, bringing the total number of visitors nearly to double digits.

Those friends and family know how devoted Eliah is as a father, so for him to leave the performance, something most likely was up.

Lindsey said they knew better than to ask questions. Eliah returned home from the meeting to discuss the new venture with his wife.

“It was very difficult to navigate through because things have to be kept quiet," Lindsey said. "So that was really hard, but we were thankful for (our family and friends) to be there to support us and be there for our girls so Eli and I could have time to process everything and talk about it together.

“It’s hard because they’re family and you want them to know, but in this business and profession, if it gets out, it jeopardizes your chances of getting the job.”

Sunday brought more talks with Missouri and a matinee performance of The Nutcracker, which both Eliah and Lindsey watched from start to finish.

But Sterk and the rest of Missouri’s traveling salesmen, including three members of the Board of Curators, were persistent.

“It's kind of crazy. ... They told us they weren’t leaving town until we got on the airplane with them on Monday,” Lindsey said. “So we packed up as fast as we could, and here we are.”

“I felt comfortable I was taking the job when they voted on me at the Board of Curators this morning," Eliah said. "I mean, I had a peace in my spirit (on Sunday) that this was probably going to be the right situation for us and that this is the right place for us. But this day and age, you never know until everything is done.”

It’s been quite the whirlwind 72 hours for the Drinkwitz family.

From Eliah guiding Appalachian State to a conference championship and its 12th win of the season, to flying to Columbia on Monday and the chats in between, the Drinkwitz kin is Columbia-bound.

Lindsey said her older daughters have two weeks of school left between Tuesday and Christmas and will finish the semester where they are.

Eliah and Lindsey have family in Joplin and will set up shop in Columbia soon into the new year — an unrealistic prospect as recent as four days ago.

“We are humbled and grateful for this experience,” Lindsey said. “We know this is exactly where we are supposed to be. After praying about it, we have so much peace and we’re excited to get down here and get started.”

eblum@columbiatribune.com

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