The University of Missouri's unofficial barnstorming tour reached Jackson High School on Friday.
MU athletic director Mike Alden, with assistance from other athletic department representatives, gave a presentation to about 35 Jackson students in the school's library.
The presentation, which lasted about 35 minutes, was not as much about athletics as it was about academics and character.
Alden spoke about social responsibility as it relates to athletes, and he emphasized competitive intensity, which he basically described as "being the best you can be" regardless of whether you're a high school student or an adult member of the work force.
Later, with local media members, Alden talked about his reason for being in Jackson Friday -- and the reason he and other MU athletic department representatives will ultimately give similar presentations at about 48 high schools across the state during a tour that begin in December and will conclude in April.
"We're the flagship institution in the state," Alden said. "If you are truly the flagship institution, there is a responsibility to take your program to the entire state.
"We invite students and fans from across the state to come to Columbia. I think it's important to carry a consistent message about certain things we feel strongly in."
Said Ross Bjork, a MU assistant athletic director, "It's just a way to spread the word about our athletic department and the university in general."
Bjork said there was no particular reason MU officials chose to visit Jackson, which is the only high school in Southeast Missouri they will visit this year. Friday's presentation was made to a health class taught by Bruce Thomas, Jackson's former wrestling coach.
Jackson athletic director "Kevin Bohnert asked me if I wanted to bring my class in, and I was happy about it," Thomas said. "I think it was a neat deal. I was glad those guys were here."
Said Bjork, "We just hit areas we haven't been to in a while. At some schools, we'll talk to the entire school. Today, we're just talking to a class."
The Whitney connection
There might actually have been one reason MU officials decided to visit Jackson. A laughing Alden told the students, "Mario Whitney told me I had to come see Jackson."
Whitney is Jackson's record-setting former running back who was a freshman at MU last year. He saw limited action in two games before taking a medical redshirt because of several injuries and still will have four seasons of eligibility remaining.
Whitney has been moved to wide receiver, which MU director of media relations Chad Moller said has Tigers coaches excited.
"A lot of people probably wonder if Mario is still on the team because he had all those injuries last year," Moller said. "We start spring practice in less than a month, and the coaches are really excited about having Mario at wide receiver."
Mike Kelly, MU's director of community relations, joined Alden, Bjork and Moller in Jackson. Also with the group was Jackson attorney Joe Buerkle, a major MU supporter who played football for the Tigers in the early 1960s after a stellar career at Jackson High School.
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