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Mizzou Athletics photo / Missouri sixth-year senior receiver and former walk-on Barrett Banister has amassed more than 25 catches each of the past three seasons.

Last month's Southeastern Conference media days event in Atlanta was again loaded with stars who were once big-time recruits, with Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, Auburn running back Tank Bigsby, Alabama outside linebacker Will Anderson and Georgia outside linebacker Nolan Smith serving as notable examples.

Georgia also was represented by national championship offensive MVP Stetson Bennett, the former walk-on quarterback, but Bennett's background isn't nearly as obscure as that of Missouri sixth-year receiver and former walk-on Barrett Banister. The lack of a photo on Banister's 247Sports.com profile page reflects that.

"It's been pretty crazy," Banister said of his time with the Tigers. "It's been a progression. You're fighting for your life trying to get someone on the team to know your name.

"It's been a process and a grind and a real testament to the people in my life who have poured into me."

The 6-foot, 196-pounder from Fayetteville, Arkansas, made the 2016 Arkansas Democrat Gazette all-state team in 2016, but the Razorbacks never came calling. He walked-on at Mizzou under Barry Odom in 2017 and redshirted that season, but his perseverance began to pay off in 2018, when he had eight receptions for 88 yards, including three for 37 in a loss to Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl.

Banister then had 27 catches in both the 2019 and 2020 seasons before amassing 31 last year, capped by a six-reception performance in the Armed Forces Bowl against Army, a game the Tigers dropped 24-22.

"Barrett obviously has been a great example of what it means to be a Missouri Tiger and develop and play a key role not only on the field but in the locker room," Mizzou third-year coach Eli Drinkwitz said. "Barrett has been a guy who is dependable and hard working. One of the things we've challenged him on is his leadership.

"It's not just enough for you to do all the right things. You need to bring other people with you, and I think Barrett has been able to do that. He's become a vocal leader where he challenges other guys to buy into the vision we have moving forward."

Mizzou is looking to move forward from the land of .500, having posted 6-6, 5-5 and 6-6 records the past three regular seasons. The Tigers are just 41-44 overall since winning consecutive Eastern Division titles in the 2013-14 seasons, and the challenge of moving the program back up the ladder made it an easy decision for Banister in terms of using an extra year due to the coronavirus outbreak of 2020.

MISSOURI

Last season: 6-7 (3-5 SEC)

Opener: Sept. 1 vs. Louisiana Tech in Columbia (8 p.m. on ESPNU)

Fun fact: Missouri has been an SEC member since 2012 but has yet to play at Auburn. That will change on Sept. 24.

Up next: South Carolina

"Who wouldn't want to play in this conference?" Banister said. "Much of it stems from me being a walk-on. I dreamt of playing in these environments, so I couldn't pass up the opportunity."

Banister grew up idolizing former New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman, appreciating his determination and his ability to make tough catches. Banister's reliability has been reflected in becoming targets for Mizzou quarterbacks Drew Lock, Kelly Bryant, Connor Bazelack and Brady Cook during his career.

His success last season resulted in a nomination for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is named for former Arkansas offensive lineman Brandon Burlsworth and goes to the sport's top player who began his career as a walk-on. Bennett was a finalist last year, with the honor going to former Razorbacks linebacker Grant Morgan.

"Being a nominee for that award meant a ton," Banister said. "Being from Fayetteville, I got to learn a great deal about Brandon. My grandfather was one of the coaches on staff that helped bring him to Arkansas.

"Being able to represent that and bring honor to his name by my play on the field I think is very special to me."

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com.

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