Jeff Gettys isn’t content just being on the University of Missouri football roster. He’s making his best push to get on the field.
After a year of learning and working with the scout team as a redshirt, Gettys is moving his way up the Tigers’ depth chart. He played well enough in the spring to earn a spot on the list and right now is third at middle linebacker.
Gettys’ best chance to play immediately might be on special teams. But he isn’t going to quit pursuing freshman Luke Lambert as second in line behind starter Brock Christopher.
“I’m trying to move up the depth chart. Trying to push (Nos.) 1 and 2, make them better,” Gettys said Monday afternoon between practices in Columbia. “That’s my goal right now, to make it with the 1s and 2s.”
Gettys hasn’t played a down at Mizzou, but he’s loved every minute of his experience. From running onto the field at home games to traveling with the team to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Tx., the 2006 Houston graduate said he’s living a dream wearing the Tigers’ black and gold.
Gettys had scholarship offers from Missouri State University and others after helping lead Houston to consecutive state semifinal appearances. But he turned them all down to walk-on at Missouri.
“It was the right decision. There’s no place I’d rather be,” said Gettys, the first Houston native to play at Mizzou in three decades. “It’s a big-time school and big-time atmosphere. You could go someplace else and always wonder, ‘Hey, maybe I could have played there.’ There’s always those what ifs.”
Gettys joined the Tigers in the fall of 2006 as a walk-on and member of the scout team defense. His duty was to study the defensive scheme of Missouri’s next opponent, then perform that role in practice against the Tigers’ starters. He dressed for all home games and was given the same repetitions as a scholarship player.
Gettys, who was named the scout player of the week during the season, said it didn’t take long for him to realize that he could compete at that level.
“The second or third week of camp last year, I realized, ‘Yeah, you can do this,'” he said.
Among Gettys’ first-year highlights was running onto Farout Field for the first time. He leapt and touched the “Rip ‘Em Up Tigers” – a tradition he kept for every home game. He also made the December trip with the Tigers to the Sun Bowl. He said he had never been to Texas or Mexico – and he’s not anxious to go back after getting sick. It also didn’t help that Missouri lost to Oregon State 39-38 on a two-point conversion with 22.1 seconds left. The Tigers finished their season 8-5.
After a summer working in Houston, Gettys returned to Columbia this month with high expectations for himself and the team. He’s up to 225 pounds – 10 more than when he arrived at Mizzou – and when Quaran Barge didn’t meet academic requirements, Gettys took his spot as third middle linebacker.
Gettys said he’s also feeling more comfortable in defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme.
“My reading the offensive line – if it’s a run or pass – and just the whole understanding of the defense seems to be a lot better this year,” Gettys said.
With only one returning starter, Missouri’s linebacking corps is one of the Tigers’ most experienced units. Christopher is the only non-freshman that has played more defensive minutes than special teams. But coach Gary Pinkel has said the crew is the most athletic, physical group he’s had.
For Gettys to move up the depth chart, he’ll have to pass Lambert, a highly-regarded recruit from Brookfield. He was ranked the ninth-best recruit in the state last year and the nation’s 40th-best outside linebacker. Brookfield was the first 2007 recruit to commit to Mizzou, and he joined fellow freshman linebacker Michael Keck as the first players in Tiger football history to enroll early and take part in spring drills.
Gettys said he’s not sure what he needs to do to pass Brookfield. But he’s going to continue trying.
“You just go out there and do the best you can,” Gettys said. “You study all day in your meetings and try to get out there and perform.”
If Gettys doesn’t overtake Brookfield or land on the first or second special teams, he’ll resume his role as a scout team player. Like last season, he’ll continue dressing for home games but won’t travel on the road.
Gettys said he’d like to eventually earn a scholarship, but it isn’t high on his priority list. He wants to earn some playing time and most of all, make his teammates better.
“I’m just hoping to go to more bowl games,” Gettys said. “If we make it to five of them while I’m out here, it’s been a success.”