A shortened 2003 season left Victor Sesay with something to prove this year. So far he has made his point.
The senior tight end has had the biggest influence on the team through the first two games and should remain an important receiving option for quarterback Brad Smith throughout the season.
In his first year with Missouri in 2003, Sesay showed he had the potential to be a dangerous tight end, catching 15 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. But his season was cut short in the ninth game of the year against Colorado when he tore the patellar tendon in his right knee.
After having to sit out the remainder of 2003, Sesay said he enters this season with more motivation to succeed.
“I come into this season with a little chip on my shoulder after my season was prematurely ended,” Sesay said. “I’m still going to make every game like it’s my last and just go out there and do whatever I have to do for the team to make myself better.”
Sesay has wasted little time this season showing his desire to make plays. He is tied for the team lead with nine receptions, is second with 114 receiving yards behind wide receiver Sean Coffey (148), and his two touchdowns trail Damien Nash (three) and Smith (four).
If he continues at this pace, Sesay will be a serious candidate for the John Mackey Award, which is given to the top tight end in the country. Sesay was on the preseason watch list for the award that went last season to former Miami (Fla.) player Kellen Winslow, who is now playing for the Cleveland Browns.
Sesay said he is comfortable with the pressure and leadership roles that come with being one of the high priority receivers for Missouri.
“I’m filling a little bit of the senior leadership role,” Sesay said. “But, I’m also actually, in the game, looking out there seeing that I can dominate a lot of things. And, you know, the better I get, the better the team can get.”
After spending his first two years of eligibility playing at the junior college level for Ventura (Calif.) College, Sesay came to Missouri ranked as the No. 92 junior college prospect at any position by SuperPrep Magazine. He was First Team All-Western Conference in each of his two seasons at Ventura, catching 58 passes for 970 yards and 11 touchdowns.
Coach Gary Pinkel has said Sesay and fellow tight end Martin Rucker will be an important part of Missouri’s passing offense this season. Although the offense struggled against Troy last Wednesday, the tight ends maintained the high numbers they had in the 52-20 route of Arkansas State in Missouri’s first win.
Sesay had five catches for 34 yards with a touchdown and Rucker had three catches for 44 yards.
“That’s just more weapons that you have, if you have good tight ends, and I think we have two pretty good tight ends,” Pinkel said. “Certainly, I think to be diverse, to be able to get the ball to different positions, puts more stress on a defense rather than getting it in to your wide receivers by themselves.”
After the Arkansas State game, Smith said he noticed that Sesay and Rucker were making excellent targets and giving him more options with their ability to get open.
“Those guys can run,” Smith said. “They’re very big and it’s tough to get good match ups on them with linebackers and safeties and everything, so that gives us a big advantage.”
Sesay showed his ability to beat safeties downfield on both the touchdowns he scored this season, particularly the 35-yard pass for a touchdown he caught against Arkansas State when the Indians had a safety in single coverage.
“We joke around. We kid around about how nobody can check us,” Sesay said. “But it kind of has a little meaning to it. We want to emphasize one-on-one, man-to-man checking and getting open because we know we can get open. We’re here because we’re probably some of the elite in the nation and we just want to go out and prove it every game.”
Missouri’s 112 rushing yards against Troy highlighted the Tigers’ struggles, but Sesay said the offense is getting better this season than last. Missouri has improved its passing offense this year, going for 243 yards against Arkansas State and 224 against Troy, though Smith threw 46 times against the Trojans, four short of his career high.
Sesay said he anticipates a better passing attack from 2003 when the offense gained 166 yards a game.
“It’s just confidence,” Sesay said. “There’s a lot of confidence going around. There’s a lot of trust going around with the receivers, tight ends and quarterbacks. We’re just all basically on the same page right now.”