After playing two years at Oregon, Khalil Oliver needed a change of scenery.
Although Oliver saw action for the Ducks in 2015 and 2016, injuries riddled the Meridian, Idaho, standout in 2017.
But Oliver knew that a change was in order to resurrect his career — not just in football but life in general.
That’s when Kita, a Boston terrier/pitbull mix, came into Oliver’s life. Oliver said his mother suggested he get a companion.
“I have always been good with animals and I had the time since I was moving into my senior year,” Oliver said. “I didn’t really have many in-class classes so I knew I had the time to take care of an animal.”
Oliver says he wouldn’t know what to do without his furry little friend.
The same could now be said for the Missouri football team without Oliver ever since he transferred to MU prior to last season.
A starter at strong safety for the Tigers this year, Oliver has lived up to every expectation by defensive backs coach David Gibbs and head coach Barry Odom.
After Saturday’s win against South Carolina, Oliver has recorded five solo tackles with five assists, one tackle for loss, one sack and two pass breakups this fall.
Odom said Oliver has done a nice job of playing consistent and smart.
“They are all playing well together,” Odom said. “However, we are going to get tested. Our next opponent, Troy, is really talented on offense and scoring 40 points per game. The secondary has done a nice job through four games, but as soon as you take a breath and think, hey, we got this, that’s when you get knocked out. We’ve got a lot of work left to go.”
With two solo tackles and one breakup against South Carolina, Oliver feels his season has gone well to this point.
“My responsibility a lot of times is just setting the edge and making sure the plays all collapse back and then making sure guys wrap up and make their tackles,” Oliver said. “I have been having a good season in my eyes — the coaches have said so, too. I think I just need to keep it up and continue to play the way I have.”
Oliver appeared in all 13 games last year for the Tigers, making five starts, and finished the season ranked fifth on the team with 40 tackles. He also had a pair of tackles for loss on the season and added a fumble recovery and one pass breakup. His best game in a Missouri uniform came against Alabama last Oct. 13, when he made a season-high six stops. Oliver later equaled that by making six tackles on the road at No. 13 Florida last Nov. 3.
During his time at Oregon, Oliver won the team’s special teams player of the year award after appearing in 12 games (seven starts) and making 46 tackles, including 2 1/2 tackles for loss and three pass breakups in 2016. He also appeared in 13 games as a redshirt freshman in 2015, making 27 tackles on the year, to go with two pass breakups and a fumble recovery. Oliver grabbed one interception in each of those two seasons.
As for the 3-1 start by the Tigers, Oliver said each player is realizing they don’t need to do anything special.
“Everybody just needs to do their job and people are going to make plays,” Oliver said. “You go all around the defense and you just put on the tape and you see people in the right position. You need the strong safeties, like me and Perk (Ronnell Perkins), setting the edge and turning it back into the inside linebackers. I think everybody is realizing that we have playmakers all over the field and that you don’t need to be a hero, you just need to do your job and complete your one-on-ones.”
For the time being, Oliver has football and Kita to keep him busy for the next 10 weekends.
“Honestly, my biggest challenge is taking care of my dog,” Oliver said, laughing. “I really got lucky with her. I took her in and there was really no requirement to house-training her because she was ready to go from the very beginning.
“I guess the hardest part is that I can’t leave food out for her. My mom has said multiple times that she thinks Kita wants to move back with her. Sometimes I think my dog likes my mom more than me.”
Whether it’s caring for his dog or playing football, Oliver is doing it the right way.