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Hoping for the last laugh

Senior wideout Greg Bracey keeps his teammates on their toes
Thursday, August 16, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:14 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Greg Bracey is battling with Tommy Saunders and Jason Ray for a wide receiver position.

COLUMBIA- Unsuspecting of the predator lurking in the darkness, a youthful-looking freshman descends down a residence hall elevator and into the lobby to retrieve his mail. After sifting through the various leaflets and seeing that they’re mostly campus flyers, the student tosses the small sheets of paper into the air and disappointedly exclaims, “I don’t need any of this stuff!”

Dejected, the student walks back to the elevator when he is suddenly blindsided and knocked to the ground by a giant blur. Hunched over the trembling student, the livid lurker wags his finger and yells in a deep, raspy voice, “You know you can’t be pulling that kind of stuff in here, Humpty Dumpty! Can’t be throwing trash on the floor, you know that! Now I told you, you read those flyers and you go to those events or it’s going to be a very long semester ’cause Bracey is in the house, Wooh wooh!”

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Had this attack actually happened, the MU Police Department probably would have responded within minutes. Instead, this fictional scene is from the homemade video, “Greg Bracey: Res Hall Linebacker,” in which Bracey, a senior Missouri receiver, plays a testosterone-driven linebacker who uses physical punishment to wreak havoc on misbehaving students in the residence halls.

The video, which spoofs a popular Reebok ad campaign from earlier in the decade, has become an instant hit in the Tiger locker room. But Bracey is well accustomed to cracking up his teammates. He’s been doing it for years.

“Sometimes you take the role (of comedian), and sometimes it kind of falls in your lap,” he said. “Most people, when they come in (as freshman), they seem nervous. But I realized I’m going to be here the next four or five years, so I might as well stay the same.”

Players haven’t had much to smile about lately. They’re in the midst of a long, grueling fall camp where practicing under scorching temperatures is the norm. Players become testy as they compete to earn playing time, and occasional scuffles break out between the offense and defense from battling each other every day.

It is at these times, receiver Jason Ray said, that Bracey’s humor provides a welcome respite from the tension-filled practice field.

“He just has a great personality,” Ray said. “In times that guys might be slacking off, Brace can bring some light to the situation and bring a smile to people’s faces and get you laughing.”

Bracey earned a chorus of hoots and hollers from his peers at practice last Thursday after he ran one half of a conditioning drill backward and still managed to beat several of his teammates.

“Honestly,” he said, “most of the things I do is pretty much off the top of the head or how I feel at the moment.”

Last year he had the crowd in an uproar with his dead-on celebrity impersonations at the Sun Bowl talent show. His Bill Cosby, George W. Bush and Bill Clinton shticks are always a fan favorite, he said.

“Any voice I hear triggers it up in my head where I can get (the impersonation) going in a second or two,” he said. “I kind of look at myself as my own synthesizer.”

Bracey has made plenty of noise over the years as the team’s class clown, but he said he also knows when it’s time to work. After catching just three passes for 79 yards last year, he is determined to earn a bigger role in the Tigers’ offense this season. It’ll be a tough task, as he’s currently in an intense position battle with Ray and junior Tommy Saunders.

That didn’t seem to bother him during Monday’s scrimmage, though. Facing the first-team defense, Bracey caught a Chase Patton pass in perfect stride and raced 75 yards down the left sideline for the score.

“I might be the comedian around here,” he said, “but I also think everybody knows when to take me serious.”

Ray said the competition hasn’t caused a rift between the players and that Bracey’s quick wit and positive attitude have made it easier for everyone to get along.

“He’s a very enthusiastic guy, great character guy,” Ray said. “I have all the respect in the world for the guy, so it’s fun being on the same side as him.”

Pity the fool: After growing out his hair for most of camp, tight end Martin Rucker came to practice looking less like T-Ruck and more like Mr. T from “The A-Team” as he sported a Mohawk, mutton chops and a matching beard.

Coach’s casualty: No new injuries were reported at Wednesday’s practice, with the exception of a noticeable gash on the back of coach Gary Pinkel’s neck. Pinkel was accidentally knocked to the ground by cornerback Castine Bridges earlier in practice. He said the injury wasn’t serious.

Scrimmage scramble: Saturday’s practice has been changed from 11:00 a.m. to 8:15 a.m. because of the heat. The team’s scrimmage, which is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m., will be held at Faurot Field and is open to all season ticket holders.


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