Missouri senior running back Larry Rountree has been described in the past as the heartbeat of the Tigers.


Given that billing by former head coach Barry Odom, Rountree was one of five MU co-captains last season as the Tigers started strong but struggled over the second half of the season.


He’s the only one back in Columbia for 2020.


As uncertainty exists amid the coronavirus pandemic, including when the college football season will start and what it may look like, Rountree says he is concerned about the spread of the disease, but not about being around his teammates at voluntary workouts.


"I feel comfortable and I don't think anybody on the team feels like their health is at stake because the way that we have our stuff set up is you can't get it, unless you're not social distancing outside of the facility," Rountree said of the voluntary workouts. "... Let's be real. I can’t tell them (teammates) not to do something. But at the end of the day, I'm like, ‘If you do go somewhere, just wear your mask.’"


Rountree is entering his final year at Missouri, with big expectations. His 2019 season was solid yet a setback compared to previous years.


In 2018, Rountree posted 1,216 yards rushing for the Tigers. He then finished his junior season with 829 yards on the ground and scored a team-high nine rushing touchdowns.


Rountree enters 2020 with 2,748 career rushing yards, sixth-most in program history and trailing fifth-place Henry Josey by just 23 yards.


He needs only 450 yards to become the MU all-time rushing leader by a non-quarterback and is 1,542 rushing yards away from passing Missouri’s all-time career rushing leader, Brad Smith with 4,289 yards.


Yet Rountree says he’s not focused on any individual accolades.


"This is my last year. I'm playing for my class. ... So at the end of the day, I don't really care about my individual accolades. I only care about the team, what we're doing," Rountree said.


"That individual stuff will come, but I'm not looking at it as like a bounce-back year. I need to go out there and run as hard as I can for my team and do everything I can, not even just on the field, (but) off the field. As far as becoming a better teammate, showing guys that I care about them, not even just football, outside of football, being a brother, being the ultimate teammate."


That could indicate why Rountree is paying so much attention to everyone’s safety with the spread of COVID-19 still prevalent.


Earlier this week, for example, Houston shut down its voluntary workouts after several student-athletes tested positive for the coronavirus.


"If we get a flare, (the workouts) are in jeopardy, we can get shut down because of that. I think Houston just got shut down," Rountree said. "Houston, they got shut down for, I don't know how long, but now they're going to be behind. We're already behind. We didn’t have a spring. We don't need to waste any more time.


"So the time that we are getting, we need to take advantage of that as far as working out, getting in conditioning, getting the offense down, learning the schemes, learning everything and not wasting time, because if we do —which is not going to happen, but if somebody was to have it — it would shut everything down and then we will be doing nothing more but backtracking and hurting ourselves because of somebody wanting to go to a pool party and jump into a pool."


A Missouri athletics spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that MU asked returning student-athletes to sign a pledge stating they will take seven coronavirus precautions while in Columbia.


Those include self-monitoring their symptoms, practicing good hygiene (including proper hand washing) and going through daily screenings.


Missouri head football coach Eliah Drinkwitz said Wednesday he was unaware of his players having to sign any document before resuming on-campus workouts.


The pledge is different from an exemption waiver provided by schools such as SMU, where the athletic department and university would hold no responsibility should a student-athlete be diagnosed with COVID-19 after participating in on-campus activities.


Missouri’s form appears to be spearheaded by mitigating the spread within the Tiger community.


On Wednesday, the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee gave its recommendations for a return to full-fledged practices. MU could start fall camp Aug. 7 without a further setback.


Even in a new offense, Drinkwitz understands how critical of a role Rountree will play in the Tigers’ success this fall.


In Drinkwitz’s time as an offensive coordinator or head coach over the past six years, five running backs to play in his system have been selected in the NFL Draft.


Rountree projects to be next in that group.


"The thing I like about Larry is he's a runner. He's physical, he's got good vision," Drinkwitz said of Rountree. "But he can get you an extra two (yards), even when the offensive line doesn't block for that extra two, and he's got great leadership capabilities, very smart.


"He's somebody that everybody listens to and respects. ... He's going to have to be, him along with Tyler Badie — very excited about those guys — have got to be a big combination for us offensively in order to score points."