In the mid- to late-1990s, after years and years of trying to earn respect, a group of talented athletes converged on Columbia and showed what could be possible for the University of Missouri football team.

Among those athletes was a young man from Moberly High School, a running back whose decision to stay in state for college still makes many Tigers fans beam with pride.

What a run it was for Devin West, both literally and figuratively.

West emerged as one of the best rushers in Mizzou history who not only left damage on the field but left his mark across the record books. And it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted West with the Class of 2021.

From 1995 to 1998 at Mizzou, West was known as a silky smooth and deceptively fast tailback who ended his career ranking No. 2 in rushing yards (2,954 yards) and earned First Team All-American honors from Football News and The Sporting News in 1998.

That year, Mizzou won the Bowl, its first bowl victory since 1981, and West was Mizzou’s first All-American since John Clay in 1986 – and the Tigers’ first running back All-American since 1942.

If bowl stats were counted in career totals when he played, he would have left as Mizzou’s career leader in that category (229 yards combined in two bowl games).

His 1,578 yards in 1998 remain the best in a single season, and his 319 yards against Kansas in 1998 are still the best in a single game in school history.

Additionally, at one point, his 108 points in 1998 and 174 career points ranked third and eighth in school history, respectively.

“It wasn’t until my sophomore year in high school that I started playing (football),” West told his hometown newspaper, the Moberly Monitor. “I had a lot of friends that played on the team, but I wasn’t interested in playing football but wanted to hang around them.”

His role back then? He was the waterboy, leading then-coach Rex Grimes to ask why he wasn’t playing.

“I told him that I just really did not want to,” West said. “But Coach Grimes kept coming to me and asking, and he introduced me to playing football. That’s how it all started for me.”

A year later, in 1994, he rushed for 1,006 yards, becoming the first Moberly rusher in years to surpass the 1,000-yard mark. And it was that season when he was adopted by Mike and Kim Bowlby. As a senior, he rushed for 1,477 yards and earned Class 4 All-State honors.

However, he wasn’t an instant sensation at Mizzou, for obvious reasons. For one, freshmen are rarely entrusted with the football. But he also dealt with a leg injury. And then the next two seasons, he was the reserve running back behind Brock Olivo, who graduated in 1997 as the program’s all-time leading rusher.

“I prepared myself hard over the winter after my junior season, and all the way through the following summer,” West said. “I gained quite a bit of muscle and increased my speed because I really wanted to come into my senior year ready from the start.”

But the script soon had to be altered. Quarterback Corby Jones (MSHOF 2016) suffered a turf toe injury early in the season, leading Mizzou to shift its offense from the option to the I-formation. That meant all eyes would be on West.

On Sept. 12, 1998, he ran all over Kansas, breaking the single-game rushing record that had stood since 1941.

It prompted Mizzou coach Larry Smith to be quoted as saying, “I’ve coached for a lot of years and had a lot of great backs. But I swear I’ve never had one that gave that kind of effort. That was something special.”

West was a semifinalist for the 1998 Doak Walker Award, given to the top running back in college football. His 1,578 yards rushing ranked fifth nationally, and he scored 17 touchdowns.

A bone spur injury late that season and again before the Senior Bowl led to doctors discovering a degenerative joint disease, effectively ending his career.

“I am so thankful for the support I had,” West said. “I am so appreciative to Mike and Kim Bowlby as they did their best to help me. They did so much for me and really stood by me during those difficult times of my injury and recovery. I am also very appreciative for my mom who has always stood beside me no matter what the situation has been.”