COLUMBIA — Kony Ealy has several interests that will require hard work and dedication this year: his junior season of football at Missouri, his 2014 NFL Draft stock and his work in the classroom.
But there’s one other thing that has him hungering for more.
Tuesday's practice was the second full-pads practice for Missouri. The team practiced inside Devine Pavilion for the first time this season because of rain.
Quarterback James Franklin said he has been working mostly with the first-team offense in camp, though he has had some limited work with the second-team offense as well.
Freshman cornerback John Gibson was wearing a red, no-contact jersey and walking boot at practice Tuesday after suffering an ankle injury Monday. Gibson is competing with David Johnson and Randy Ponder to start opposite E.J. Gaines.
Backup cornerback Xavier Smith was a full participant in Tuesday’s practice. He was seen in a red jersey and walking boot during Monday’s practice.
Two local players, sophomore wide receiver Wesley Leftwich of Hickman High School and freshman defensive tackle A.J. Logan of Rock Bridge High School remained in no-contact jerseys on Tuesday. Leftwhich has a strained hamstring, while Logan is dealing with a knee injury.
“I want to get to the elite level,” Ealy said. “I’m working toward it by playing every day.”
Of course, Ealy is talking about the video game "NCAA Football 14," which includes digital versions of all 129 Division I football programs in America.
Missouri is one of the teams represented in the game, and nearly every scholarship player’s likeness is included. The game creator (EA Sports) is contractually obligated to leave out player names, but it isn’t hard to spot James Franklin (“QB #1”) or Henry Josey (“RB #20”) in the backfield.
Defensive tackle Lucas Vincent made waves in July when "Sports Illustrated" wrote an article about one of Vincent’s tweets. The senior was upset the NCAA and EA Sports were using his likeness without compensating him.
“I wanna buy the new NCAA game but I also don’t wanna be poor till September…” read Vincent’s tweet on July 8. “My likeness is on the game why do I have to pay for it?”
But while Vincent said his parents thought his appearance in a famous magazine was “pretty cool,” he also has reversed course on his opinion, saying the game, which is currently being sold for $59.99 at most retailers, “is not an issue.”
“No,” said Vincent, who admitted he still had not purchased this year's version. “Not at all. I've bought the game every year since I can remember. I love the game.”
His original complaint is part of a larger question – should college players be compensated? – that threatens to significantly change how the NCAA operates. Even the EA Sports college football franchise is under fire.
Facing several lawsuits, the NCAA requested that it’s name be removed from the game title in future years, but it is widely speculated that the gaming titan’s deal with the College Licensing Company will allow them to continue using players’ likenesses.
“I can see both arguments about how they put our names on the game, and we don’t receive anything for it,” said cornerback Xavier Smith, who many teammates say is the best "NCAA Football 14" player. “But then, I feel like we’re college athletes. We’re not professionals yet.”
For the most part, Missouri players don’t worry about the controversy that comes along with the game these days.
In fact, guys who have never played before are taking a liking to it.
“I’m just learning how to play,” cornerback E.J. Gaines said. “I never played any of them besides this one that just came out. I’m pretty good at it by now.”
Gaines is Missouri’s second-highest-rated virtual character. His score of 90 overall (out of 99) ranked second on the team behind Josey (93) when the game was released in July. Gaines said his high rating was “surprising,” but that he avoids playing with Missouri, unlike his teammates.
“I play with Mizzou,” Ealy said. “That’s my favorite team.”
Supervising editor is Grant Hodder.