Born: December 29, 1987

Sean Weatherspoon’s legacy as one of the top defensive players in the history of the University of Missouri football program is secure. But it isn’t the big games or the individual accolades that Weatherspoon remembers or values most about his time in Columbia.

“I remember the summer workouts and downtime with my teammates more vividly than any one game,” he said. “We really pushed each other to be our best selves. We would go at each other relentlessly on the field, weight room, and classroom. Afterwards, we would joke for hours and just have fun being around each other. It was the love in Columbia that meant the most.”

A two-time All-American and a three-time, First Team All-Big 12 selection, Weatherspoon shined for the Tigers from 2006 to 2009. He left school after his senior season with 413 tackles, which still ranks third in program history. His 43.5 career tackles for loss are second all-time.

Weatherspoon then moved on to the NFL, where he was a first-round draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons in 2010, becoming the first Mizzou linebacker to be selected in the first round. He spent seven years in the NFL, helping the Falcons reach Super Bowl LI following the 2016 season. His on-field accomplishments make the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proud to induct Weatherspoon as part of the Class of 2023.

So how did a kid from Jasper, Texas make it all the way to Columbia, Mo., and then the NFL?

“The Missouri coaching staff made me feel like more than just a quota,” he said. “They cared about me as an individual first. Once I took my visit, I knew it was a place where I could flourish and win games.”

But he didn’t flourish right away. Weatherspoon had to work for his opportunities.

“I was a puny 6-foot, 200-pound kid when I arrived at Mizzou,” he said. “I remember Coach Pat Ivey pushed me to run with the defensive backs in my first workout at Faurot Field. I think that’s when my teammates noticed that I was focused on team goals as well as my own.”

And that’s also where Weatherspoon began to develop as a leader.

“I think that’s when the leadership qualities started to really show from then on,” he said. “My first year I didn’t play much defense, but I was all in on doing whatever I could to help the team. I felt lucky to wear the black and gold.”

One of the most popular players in the modern history of Mizzou football, Weatherspoon connected with fans whenever he could. His mother, the late Elwanda Weatherspoon, had a lot to do with that.

“Myself and my teammates would sign an autograph for a fan at any time and any place,” he said. “I’ve always strived to be an inspiration to others. My mom taught me to be a light, not to just be. That’s the reason I’m always smiling. Attitudes are chosen, and a good one makes a big difference.”

Not surprisingly, Columbia holds a special place in Weatherspoon’s heart.

“It was the love in Columbia that meant the most,” he said. “I also remember meeting my beautiful wife, Christine, in CoMo. She even became one of the guys, too. The kids I helped Missouri sign became our kids on campus. It was a tight knit family vibe.”

Family means a lot to Weatherspoon. His father, Develous, introduced him to football. Elwanda was his inspiration, and still is.

“My mom inspired me to go after my goals regardless of my circumstances,” Weatherspoon said. “She taught me to put God first, and the rest will follow. She is the biggest influence I have had in my life. My dad introduced me to the game, and always got me where I needed to be, whenever I needed to be there. They held it down for our family. My parents really made it easy to just be a kid playing ball. I’ll always be grateful for that.”

Not surprisingly, his family wasn’t far from his thoughts when he learned he’d been selected for induction into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame.

“I broke down when I got the call, just grateful to be in this elite group,” he said. “Grateful to represent my entire family. This is for my mom! We called her T Jones. Mizzou fans and Falcon fans know her as Mama Spoon. This is her honor; I’m just here accepting it today. She’s big smiling in Heaven.”