COLUMBIA, Mo. — When Missouri receiver Barrett Banister needs to get away from football for just a short while and clear his mind, he plays a round of golf.
His father, Brian, played golf at Stanford, but as a three-sport high school athlete, Barrett couldn’t find much time on the golf course. He’s picked up the sport since coming to college. This summer, Banister set a goal for himself.
“Barrett is competitive and wants to win,” his mother, Holly, said. “And his goal this summer was ‘I want to shoot under par.’ And he shot 2 under par this summer because he had a goal and that's what he wanted to do.”
It’s the same work ethic that helped him go from an under-the-radar recruit in high school to a preferred walk-on at Mizzou to a scholarship player with an important role in the Tigers’ receiving corps. He’s living every walk-on’s dream, but it isn’t the dream he initially set out to live.
Living in Fayetteville, Ark., Banister grew up a Razorback. His uncle Tim Horton played at Arkansas in the 1980s and returned to Fayetteville in 2007 as a position coach. He later became offensive coordinator and eventually took a job as a running backs coach at Auburn in 2012, a position he still holds. Both of Banister’s siblings attended Arkansas as well.
His grandfather Harold Horton played for Arkansas in the late ’50s and early ’60s before working as the Razorbacks’ linebackers coach from 1968-76 and defensive line coach from 1977-80. Now, when the Razorbacks assemble to plan how to beat Banister and Missouri, they gather in meeting rooms named for Harold Horton.
An offer for Banister never came.
“I kind of had this picture in my mind of how things would work out,” he said. “And I guess God had a different picture. And so at first it was kind of like, ‘Why is this not working out the way I think it should?’”
Banister had to find a new dream. He was set on playing football and received an offer from Harding University, an NCAA Division II school in Arkansas, but they wanted him to play quarterback. He considered walking on at Auburn because of his family ties. But when Missouri’s Barry Odom recruited his high school teammate and friend Taylor Powell, Powell put in a good word.
Odom offered him a spot as a preferred walk-on, and Banister had a new goal: earn a scholarship at Mizzou.
Banister redshirted for the 2017 season and felt he had something to prove. After the rejection by his hometown team, he needed to show both himself and the Mizzou staff that he could be a contributor. That was where the hard work began.
“Nothing is given to you,” Holly Banister said. “It doesn't matter who you are. And that was kind of a blessing to Barrett because no one knew who he was. Whereas at Arkansas, he was Harold Horton's grandson. He got to go up (to Missouri) and be Barrett Banister and work hard for people to know who Barrett Banister is, not someone's nephew or someone's grandson.”
His mother said he’s grown about an inch and a half since arriving at Mizzou. He entered the program weighing about 172 pounds and is now listed as 190. She joked that she might make strength coach Rohrk Cutchlow buy her son a new wardrobe.
Banister spent his first year working with the scout team. In 2018, he saw playing time in 11 games and had eight catches for 88 yards. The majority of those receptions came in the final five games of the season as Banister started to prove his worth.
Odom rewarded his efforts with a scholarship in January. Even with his mission accomplished, Banister didn’t lose his drive. He went through spring practice with a hernia that he might have first suffered last fall. He had surgery right after the spring game, his mother said.
“You start at the bottom because you're a walk-on,” she said. “So he felt like, ‘I have to tough this out so that I can play, and if I sit out then I don't have an opportunity to prove who I am.’ So he played through it.”
The injury didn’t keep him from making an impact. Of his 11 career catches for 120 yards, four have come on third down. Those four went for 71 yards and all resulted in first downs. As the top backup to senior slot receiver Johnathon Johnson, Banister had three catches for 32 yards in last week’s season-opening loss at Wyoming.
As a redshirt sophomore, Banister has time to work his way into a more prominent role this fall. Receivers coach Garrick McGee said Banister’s consistent work ethic means he’s already emerging as a leader in the meeting room.
“He’s a guy that we trust on the field to do what he’s supposed to do,” McGee said, “and compete and make plays as much as we trust anybody around here.”