Jeff Gettys, left, leaps as he runs onto the field for the first time as a member of the Missouri football team.

Angie Gettys remembers watching her son pull out of the driveway just over four years ago. He was headed to Columbia with the opportunity to join the University of Missouri football team as a walk-on.

Angie admittedly didn’t know what to expect. She certainly didn’t envision what has unfolded.

When Angie and her husband, Scott, meet their son on Faurot Field this weekend on senior day, a wave of memories and emotions will flood their minds. From walk-on of the year honors and academic accolades to his defensive touchdown and bowl victories, Jeff Gettys has lived a Hollywood-type script of a small town country boy who made it as a Division I football player.

“His Dad and I are so proud of him — doing what some people said he couldn’t do,” Angie said.

An already emotional day received a cruel twist. While on the punt team in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s game at Texas Tech, Jeff got tangled with an opponent and suffered an ACL injury. It’s the second one — this time on the other knee — in two seasons.

His senior day experience will change. Except for his No. 35 jersey, Jeff won’t be in uniform, and he will be on crutches. But he refuses to let the injury ruin what will be a memorable day as he walks onto the field at Memorial Stadium for the final time.

“It’s still the last time I’ll ever be in the gameday locker room and come out of the tunnel,” Jeff said. “I might not be running, but it will be my last time out. All those emotions will still be there.”

The past five years have been marked with milestones for the 2006 Houston High School graduate. The town’s first player to play for Mizzou in three decades, Jeff redshirted his first year and was on the field in the season opener of his second year. That was the first of 40 games he played in his career. He was a starter on many of the special teams.

During a sophomore season when he was a blocker on the unit that ended the nation’s longest drought of kickoff returns without a touchdown, Jeff was named the team’s “walk-on of the year.” He earned academic all-conference honors and that summer was awarded a full scholarship.

He proved his worth the following season in a blowout victory against Nevada when he intercepted a pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown.

Jeff turned down multiple offers from smaller schools for the opportunity to play at Mizzou. It proved to be a wise decision. Along with his individual success, Jeff and his 15 senior teammates are two wins away from becoming the winningest class in team history. Among their biggest victories was a 36-28 win in 2007 against Kansas in “Armageddon at Arrowhead” that made the Tigers the top-ranked team in the nation for the first time since 1960 and only second time ever.

“Grandpa Bob always says, ‘Jeff doesn’t realize how much joy he brought to people and to the town,'” Angie said of her father, Bob Joens. “People got to watch him and get excited about Missouri football.”

The memories are far from Jeff’s alone. When he joined the MU football team, Jeff’s parents also became part of the Mizzou family. They’ve met and made multiple friends the past five years — many fellow moms and dads of players — and attended every home game. They’ve been to several road games, too, including annual games in St. Louis and Kansas City. Two weekends ago, they were in Lincoln, Neb., for a showdown with the Cornhuskers. Family members from other states have met them at some away games.

Jeff said his parents will miss football Saturdays just as much as he will. They set up to tailgate before each home game in Lot M beside the Hearnes Center with their black Gettys flag waving in the air. There are often many friends and family there, too. Jeff’s grandparents, Bob and Mary Joens, purchased season tickets and have been at each home game.

“I think my parents enjoy it more than I do,” Jeff said. “We’ve met a lot of great people. I have a lot of great friends on the team, and they have friends they’ve met at tailgates. It’s going to be a sad time being the last time.”

Jeff feared the worst when he was injured in Saturday night’s game. He received confirmation on Monday.

A MRI revealed a torn ACL and possible chip in his femur. The injury will prematurely end Jeff’s football career. But he remains upbeat. Over the weekend, he tweeted, “can’t be a cowboy forever.”

“It’s one of those things that happens,” Jeff said. “We’re playing a tough, physical sport. You can’t be too sad about it. You knew it was a possibility.”

He may not be in uniform for his final home game, but Jeff will hardly be thinking of his injury when he steps onto the field this weekend. There are too many good memories to cherish. His final home game in uniform — one he was selected to be a team captain — was Missouri’s 36-27 upset victory three weeks earlier of the Sooners. Thousands of fans stormed the field to celebrate, and a photographer captured Jeff walking off the field with his fingers pointed in the air.

“It’s going to be very emotional Saturday being the last time,” Jeff said. ” It’s hard to wrap it up in a couple words. It’s been a great time and something that not many people get a chance to do. It’s been a fun ride.”

The Tigers’ 15 seniors have won 37 games entering Saturday’sgame against Kansas State (1 win shy of the school record for asenior class), and have been part of three bowl games (2008 Cotton,2008 Alamo, 2009 Texas), two bowl game victories (2008 Cotton, 2008Alamo), the first two Big 12 North Division championships in schoolhistory (2007, 2008), the first-ever No. 1 BCS ranking in schoolhistory (Nov. 26, 2007), and the first-ever win in school historyover a #1-ranked opponent (vs. BCS #1 Oklahoma in 2010) among manyother noteable achievements.

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