Helias tight end Damon Johanns had only one school in mind for playing at the next level.
"It was Mizzou or bust," Damon said.
Johanns played a big part in the Crusaders' 2020 undefeated State Championship season, racking up 505 yards and eight touchdowns despite missing two games with injury. Senior season now through, and still no offer from Mizzou.
"I didn't think it was gonna happen," Damon said.
Then he felt the buzz from his phone.
"My heart dropped. I glanced down, and I couldn't really believe it at first."
Mizzou Tight Ends Coach Casey Woods had just texted Damon they had a spot for him on the team as a preferred walk-on.
"I was speechless," Damon's dad Patrick Johanns said after hearing the news. "I had a tear in my eye because it means a lot."
Next year, Damon is going to play for the school of his dreams. But football was not always what he had in mind.
"I thought it was basketball all in ever since he was like 2 years old," Patrick said. "He picked up the ball and put it in every bucket he could find."
Patrick is originally from Luxembourg and played semi-professional basketball overseas. His home country even asked Damon to play for the National Team in the under 16 and under 20 European Championships, but football had already taken hold.
"For a while, it kind of broke my heart a little bit that he was going with football," Patrick Said. "But I support it. His dream is to play in front of a big crowd, and I think his determination will get him there. Wherever he goes, I'll be behind it."
Damon's football journey began in eighth grade when his friends convinced him to try out for the team, and the coaching staff took notice.
"I was just blown away, like who is this kid?" said Damon's middle school football coach Mitch Rademan.
Rademan made sure Damon knew the right path for maximizing his potential.
"He was the first to tell me, 'If I'm gonna go to college for a sport, it's not gonna be basketball, it's gonna be for football.' That kind of stuck with me," Damon said.
"First it was Mizzou basketball all over his room, and then gradually it became Mizzou football all over his room," Damon's mom Audrey Kauffman said.
Rademan said Damon doesn't shy away from the big moments on the football field. He remembers one time when the team needed a kicker and Damon volunteered with little experience.
"Next thing you know, he's the kicker on the eight grade team, and he's booting the ball to the five yard line," Rademan said.
Damon is the second Helias tight end in recent years to play in the SEC. Hale Hentges, the son of Helias Head Coach Chris Hentges, won a National Championship in 2017 with Alabama before signing on to an NFL squad as an undrafted free agent. Damon hopes to follow in Hentges' footsteps.
"I had never watched Alabama before, but now that I saw a kid from my high school playing there, I watched every game just to see him," Damon said. "I feel like it's really just someone good to look up to."
But his mom says Damon is trailblazing a path of his own.
"It's a big moment for Jefferson City, Kauffman said. "I don't remember the last time we've had a local player who's been able to go to MU, and it gets the whole city excited."
Damon announced his commitment to Mizzou on February 2. He said his Freshman season goal is to earn time on special teams to hopefully lead to getting some in-game snaps with the offense.