Byron Gasaway could have been a Cornhusker, a Wildcat or a even a Tiger.
"I considered Missouri," the senior receiver said after a recent Kansas football practice. "At the time, I had a really good relationship with the coaching staff. I'm from Missouri, so you always consider the state you're from. I just felt more comfortable here at Kansas."
Gasaway will return to his home state today when the Jayhawks play at Columbia, Mo., in the Tigers' homecoming game, but the veteran doesn't expect a warm homecoming welcome from the Mizzou faithful at Faurot Field.
"They always look in the guide and see who the Missourians are," he said. "They'll call out your name and stuff like that."
Perhaps Missouri fans shouldn't take it personally that Gasaway left home.
Though Gasaway was an all-league, all-metro and all-state quarterback as a senior at Grandview High, he was recruited as a receiver Â a position he had excelled at as a sophomore when he hauled in 30 catches for 600 yards.
Gasaway, who was rated as on of the top 20 receiver prospects in the country, visited Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas State and Kansas during recruiting. He spurned the Tigers and Cornhuskers because of their option-based offenses and eventually eliminated K-State as well. KU coach Terry Allen was trying to develop a pro-style passing game, giving Gasaway an inviting option.
Of course, both Kansas and Missouri have since changed coaches and MU enters today's game ranked eighth in the Big 12 Conference in passing offense, just ahead of KU.
First-year coach Mark Mangino has taken steps to try to improve KU's passing game in recent weeks. After a rash of dropped passes, Mangino had receivers report to the practice field early and made passing machines available after practices.
On Monday and Tuesday this week, Mangino focused on one-on-one drills in an effort to put pressure on his receivers and defensive backs. That drill is a normal part of the Jayhawks' practice routine, but this week coaches stopped the rest of practice and made other players watch the receivers and defensive backs battle.
"It puts a little pressure on you," Gasaway said. "You want to look good in front of your teammates. It's the first time they can really see what goes on between wide receivers and DBs. Linemen don't normally get to see that kind of stuff.
"You always enjoy competition. Football is a competitive game. They play a lot of man-to-man in the Big 12. You have to look at it as a time to step up and prove your skills."
KU fans have been waiting for Gasaway to do just that. After coming to Kansas with great fanfare, the former state sprint champion