Greg Bracey can get where he wants to go in a hurry.
In the summer of 2001, Bracey, then at Vincent High in Milwaukee, Wis., won the 200 meters at the Junior Olympics in 21.59 seconds. When Bracey was a junior, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel named him the area track athlete of the year after he won the state 400 in 48.2. He also finished second in the 200 and 4x100 relay.
Most recently, Bracey tied Missouri’s 40-yard dash record with a 4.29.
Bracey, though, isn’t at Missouri for only track; he’s competing for a significant role as a wide receiver for the football team.
Receivers coach Andy Hill said he hopes that speed can open up a stagnant passing game, which finished 2003 ranked 102nd in the nation.
Although the Tigers established one of the best running games in the nation last season, their passing game left much to be desired. The Tigers averaged 237.5 yards per game running the ball (sixth in the nation) but 166 yards through the air.
“Ultimately, the top-end speed is what you’re looking for, and he obviously has it,” Hill said.
Hill said, though, like the other receivers on the team, Bracey, a redshirt freshman, needs to improve his ability to do the less glamorous aspects of being a wide receiver, such as blocking downfield.
Bracey’s chances might also improve after senior Sean Coffey separated his right shoulder in Friday’s practice. Coffey should miss about a week. Bracey also will be in the mix for the kick returner job; he returned four kickoffs for touchdowns as a senior in high school.
Bracey, 6 feet 3, 195 pounds, though, shouldn’t get discouraged if he doesn’t see the ball much in games, especially because of the Tigers’ success as a running team. In high school, Bracey complemented a run-heavy offense, earning a spot in the Rivals.com Top 50 receivers.
“After a while, you get used to it and just hope that eventually it will open up,” Bracey said. “You know the run opens up the pass just like the pass will open up the run game. In the long run, it actually does balance itself out.”
Once the football season ends, Bracey’s athletic responsibilities will hardly decrease. He will return to the track as one of the lead sprinters on the Missouri team.
“When you’re doing something for four years, it’s kind of hard just to get out of that trend, it was just something I couldn’t give up right now,” Bracey said.
Bracey has had some success as a college sprinter, running the 100, 200 and 400. He won the 200 at the Missouri All-Comers Meet on Feb. 21 in 22.24. Six days later at the Big 12 Indoor Championships, he set a collegiate best with a 22.13 in the 200.
Bracey’s success has come with a little struggle outside of competition. During Bracey’s first year at Missouri, he had some trouble balancing his schedule between track and his redshirt year of football.
“In the beginning, it was (difficult), but as the second semester progressed it started to become much easier because my body got used to it, and it wasn’t as hard,” Bracey said. “It was just knowing that I have to do it because it’s something I want to do.
“It was more time management, trying to play both sports, first off going to school and then trying to having somewhat of a social life and time to relax, but when I found an even balance between all of those, it became a daily routine.”
Going back and forth between sports has allowed Bracey to take lessons learned in one and transfer them to the other.
“When you’re running track, it’s all up running, upright running, and when you’re playing football, it’s trying to stay low,” Bracey said. “But now, both of them, putting the mechanics with both, it’s become real easy.”
Bracey also said learning how to get away from defenders in a crowded secondary has helped him get off the sprinter’s starting blocks more quickly.