Mizzou's Chance Luper values growth as a Tiger with father close by

Eric Blum
Columbia Daily Tribune
Missouri wide receiver Chance Luper (18) runs the ball against Central Michigan on Sept. 4 at Faurot Field.

Chance Luper doesn't remember it. Missouri head football coach Eli Drinkwitz does. 

Drinkwitz broke into the college coaching ranks in 2010 as a graduate assistant at Auburn, where the running backs coach and recruiting coordinator was Chance's dad, Curtis Luper.

There were Sunday night dinners for Auburn's staff, and the coaches brought their kids to make it a family affair.

Before Chance was running routes as a wide receiver at Missouri, he was at those get-togethers in elementary school. Drinkwitz remembers 9-year-old Chance. 

Drinkwitz would see Chance at other times, too. When Curtis would have to go on the road recruiting, one of the mundane tasks performed by then-graduate assistant Drinkwitz was shuttling the full-time assistants to the airport. 

Curtis' kids would spend time in the football offices on The Plains. All three are currently in Columbia.

Curtis is Missouri's running backs coach, while Chance is a redshirt freshman. 

A decade after those car rides, Drinkwitz is running the show in Columbia, and part of his assembly of assistant coaches was getting his old crew back together. Also at Auburn alongside the elder Luper and Drinkwitz were Missouri tight ends coach Casey Woods as well as special teams coordinator Erik Link. 

That 2010 Auburn team did pretty well for itself, going undefeated and winning a BCS national championship.

The coaches from that team now look to elevate Missouri's program on a national scale.

"That's big time for us, because when you have that type of success together — you don't have to win the national championship, but when you have success together — you really would love to get back together at some point," Curtis Luper said last year. "It rarely happens in our profession. ... It did here, and we're all excited."

Missouri running backs coach Curtis Luper, left, throws the ball during spring practice last year at the Kadlec Practice Fields.

Drinkwitz's hiring at Missouri in December 2019 occurred eight days before the early signing period began for Class of 2020 commits. Chance Luper had verbally pledged to Boise State, while Curtis Luper was working as the co-offensive coordinator at TCU. 

Curtis finalized the paperwork to come to Columbia from Fort Worth 10 days after Drinkwitz's introductory news conference.

After that, it took Chance only a few days to flip his commitment from Boise State to Missouri. 

"My dad got the job, and then next thing I know, I'm getting calls from coach Drinkwitz," Chance said. "And I was like, 'I know where I'm going.'"

While some take the opportunity of going to college as a way to distance themselves from their parents, Chance did the opposite. 

"I've always had a dream since I was a little kid of winning games with my dad," Chance said. "I want to win a national championship with my dad. I wanted to go to a school with my dad. I just hope one day it all comes true."

The younger Luper didn't get the nod from a Power Five Conference school purely on his father's connections. He also had offers from Indiana, Louisville, Wake Forest, California and Saturday's opponent, Boston College. 

The Tigers face the Eagles on Saturday with an 11 a.m. Central kickoff time. Boston College is 3-0 entering the matchup. 

While at Fort Worth Christian, Luper tallied 27 receiving touchdowns and 2,275 yards during his high school career, the latter being a school record.

His first chance to stand out for Missouri came in its third game of 2020 against LSU. 

Missouri wide receiver Chance Luper (18) runs against LSU on Oct. 10, 2020, at Faurot Field.

On the game-winning, fourth-quarter drive in Drinkwitz's first win as the Tigers' coach, Connor Bazelak found an open Luper for a 68-yard connection. Luper thought he was destined to score his first Missouri touchdown on the play but was tackled 10 yards short. 

His first collegiate scoring play finally happened last Saturday, when a second-quarter screen pass from Bazelak found Luper. He made it to the sideline and stayed in bounds for the 52-yard touchdown.

It wasn't long before Luper was mobbed by teammates.

Curtis had his moment with his son, finally getting to show off their planned celebration for the occasion — a tribute to late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant, of whom the Lupers remain big fans. 

"I'm dad here. I'm dad all day here. Coach (Bush) Hamdan, that's his responsibility on the field," Curtis said of being in close quarters with his son, as opposed to the Tigers' wide receivers coach. "I get to see him every day and I see him as a dad.

"... It's just phenomenal having your son here every single day. That's for four more years. You can't manipulate time and spend more time with your children. In a sense, we've manipulated time because I get to spend four more years with him. Or five, or however long he stays."

Chance feels the same as the only Tiger with his father as a full-time coach on the team.

"I'm kind of used to it, being around him all the time," Chance said. "It's just dad, never really coach. Most of the time, it's just my dad. Just never too much football. We don't talk about football."

Contact Eric Blum at eblum@columbiatribune.com. Follow @ByEricBlum on Twitter.

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