Veteran cornerback Gettis finds confidence to speak up

Friday, October 23, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 4:12 p.m. CDT, Saturday, October 24, 2009
Junior cornerback Carl Gettis (19) practices for the Missouri Tigers on Tuesday.

COLUMBIA — Sean Weatherspoon won’t reveal exactly what Carl Gettis said.

“Sometimes you use words you probably can’t talk to the media,” Weatherspoon said.

Whatever Gettis said, it was just what Weatherspoon and other teammates on the Missouri football team needed to get them through the drill.

“I can’t remember exactly the words,” Weatherspoon said. “But it was a pretty good message.”

It was during a particularly hot morning this summer during the team’s offseason conditioning. The players were running a sprinting drill. Many of them were struggling to make their target times or follow the other requirements of the exercise.

“A few guys might have messed up,” Weatherspoon said. “It might be something as small as not touching the line. And we had to keep going back.”

Gettis, a junior cornerback, was not the one expected to speak up. His on-field persona was a quiet one. The other players expected Gettis would quietly hit the target time for the drill.

“This was when Carl really wasn’t saying much,” cornerback Kevin Rutland said. “He would make his times, always. It was never a slack-down like that.”

It wasn’t that Gettis wouldn’t say anything at all. He had plenty to say off the field.

“Carl can make a joke about just about anything,” Rutland said. “If it’s not involving him, and the situation is serious, if somebody falls down or they’re hurt like that, Carl can turn it around and make it seem like the funniest thing just happened.”

One of Gettis’ favorite off-field activities is music. After hearing that Weatherspoon and Rutland had formed a hip-hop group, Gettis decided to follow suit. Along with Trey Hobson and Derrick Washington, Gettis formed the “’Burb Brothers,” a hip-hop group that jokes about its members’ suburban upbringings.

“We heard the song, and we liked the idea,” Gettis said. “We got the idea from them. After that, we started making songs and joking around and just playing around with the guys on the team. We could have our group and say we’re doing it too.”

In one of the group's songs, Gettis speaks fondly about his hometown.

"O'Fallon where I stay," he raps. "636 (O'Fallon's area code) is where you can find me."

But while Gettis was known for speaking off the field, making jokes or performing a hip-hop song for teammates, it wasn’t his style to say much on the field.

“When it’s no football, going on, we just all joke with each other,” Gettis said. “We like a bunch of big brothers outside, joking around, having fun with each other. Just talking about each other, we have our little momma jokes and everything. We just all like to have a good time. But when we on the field, it’s business.”

Weatherspoon said he hears a lot more from Gettis off the field than on it.

“He’s more of a quiet guy,” Weatherspoon said. “He’s a guy that leads by example instead of talking a lot.”

That’s what made his outburst during the sprinting drill so surprising.

“When he came out and said something, the whole team was like, ‘Is that Carl speaking?’” Rutland said. “He’s yelling and it’s just, he wants the most out of the team. And to see him come out like that and speak, it just, it really turned that day around.”

Gettis is in his third year as a starting cornerback. One of the senior members of the secondary, Gettis has found more time for vocal leadership this season.

“I guess you could say that was probably the beginning of me stepping into that role as a leader and start speaking out,” he said. “Because it just felt like it was a good time to step in, try to say something, try to encourage guys.”

While Gettis has been willing to say more, Rutland has been willing to listen.

“I’m older than Carl,” Rutland said. “But I look at him and I’m like, ‘Man, you know what? He’s right. I’ve got to do this. Or some of the young guys look at him like, he’s been there the longest, he’s been starting the longest, so of course we look up to Carl. He knows what he’s doing.”

Gettis said the difference this season is his confidence in his own play, which makes him feel to more comfortable to offer hints to teammates.

“Being my third year, now I became more vocal,” Gettis said. “I’m not afraid to speak up, talk to the guys, try to motivate the guys and just give guys encouragement when needed.”

Gettis was once the one receiving the vocal leadership. He started as a freshman in 2007, and received helpful advice from former Missouri safety Pig Brown, among others.

“I didn’t really know what college football was actually like,” Gettis said. “But Pig, he wasn’t scared to come and grab me from my side and I remember he told me after the first Oklahoma game (in 2007,) ‘You can’t be letting guys push you around. You let guys push you around, they going to come after you and try to pick on you. So you’ve got to stand up for yourself.’ And Pig was always the first one to come up and jump in the pile with me and push guys off of me and just have my back all the time."

Now it’s Gettis who’s the vocal leader for less experienced defensive backs.

“During the season now, to hear Carl come out and say what needs to go on, or what we’re not doing or how to fix certain things, not surprising at all,” Rutland said.

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