Missouri receivers and roommates Jimmie Hunt, Marcus Lucas and Bud Sasser have talked about “the opportunity” since their friendship was forged two years ago.
Before ever stepping onto Faurot Field as Tigers, the trio forged a bond. It was a companionship contrived two years ago in dormitories as freshmen over countless games of basketball and pool and video games.
“We all clicked,” Hunt said. “We were all pretty well put-together guys, simple, weren’t arrogant or anything like that, and that right there is what stood out the most.”
Fellow receiver redshirt junior L’Damian Washington describes them as “best, best friends.”
So it was only fitting that Saturday afternoon against Tennessee in Neyland Stadium, an opportunity presented itself to the three.
And all of them seized it.
Hunt — a backup slot receiver with two career touchdowns prior to Missouri’s thrilling 51-48 victory in Knoxville, Tenn. — returned a kickoff for a touchdown and caught a 24-yard touchdown pass as part of the Tigers’ late offensive revival.
Lucas, recently taken out of his starting job, had a key 14-yard catch on fourth down to extend Missouri’s eventual game-tying drive late in regulation.
Sasser, who had three total catches in his previous four games, hauled in two passes for 61 yards. His leaping 40-yard grab set up a late third-quarter touchdown that kept the Tigers in Saturday’s game.
“There's not magic out there,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “There's not magic dust, and all of the sudden it happens. You don’t have momentum — you create momentum, and you do that by making big plays. Those guys made significant plays.”
The significant plays seemed like a long time coming for Hunt, Lucas and Sasser, who have been linked since each of them committed to Missouri’s 2010 recruiting class.
“We all like to make big plays, make touchdowns, we all want to be ‘that guy,’” Sasser said. “When we got here, we kind of had to wait in line a little bit.”
Rivals.com listed Hunt and Lucas as four-star recruits. Sasser was a three-star prospect. Assembled together, some envisioned the three would form Missouri’s next bunch of pass-catchers.
“It reflects back to those moments that we talked about a lot, and just being able to have that connection with each other,” Hunt said. “And when (the opportunity) came, we took advantage of it, but we knew that we had to enjoy that moment right there. But, by the time Sunday rolled around, we had to get focused on Syracuse.”
And until Syracuse (5-5) rolls into Columbia this weekend, last Saturday’s events will only add to the back-and-forth banter in the Hunt-Lucas-Sasser apartment.
Dubbed "The Three Kings” by friends, a reference to the song "Power Circle" by Maybach Music Group, one can rarely be seen without one of the others. And they’re always competing, whether it's rolling dice to determine who gets the biggest room in their apartment, playing each other in NCAA Football 13, racing down the stairs for control of the living room TV remote or racing home from the Athletic Training Complex.
“It never stops,” Hunt said with a smirk. “We always try to find a way to compete.”
"The Three Kings” always strive to one-up each other, which has translated into individual improvements. The success of one leads to the motivation of another.
That camaraderie was tested in recent weeks when Lucas, Missouri’s leading receiver, was benched in favor of Sasser after a slew of dropped passes. Lucas took the demotion in stride, though. It was through Lucas, not the coaching staff or social media, that Sasser found out he had replaced his roommate in the starting rotation.
Hunt and Sasser attributed Lucas’ improved efforts daily in practice as a reason for the turnaround.
As for Hunt’s breakout? It’s all in his mindset.
“He (Hunt) has a lot of confidence whenever he touches the ball,” Lucas said. “He thinks that he’s going to get into the end zone, and you see it every time he touches the ball.”
Being on the team together has made for jovial times in the trio’s apartment.
“We just enjoy it,” Sasser said. “It’s a great feeling to have the guy you’re really close to on the same side of the ball with you and at times right next to you playing.”