COLUMBIA — After being as low as No. 3 on the cornerback depth chart earlier this season, Missouri junior defensive back Castine Bridges decided to pay a visit to some of the Tigers’ coaching staff. Bridges couldn’t understand his lack of playing time. In his mind, he had been doing all the things that had been asked of him.
Bridges made it clear to coaches he wanted a chance to show what he could do on the field.
“After the third game, I wondered why I wasn’t up there,” Bridges said. “I had a talk with the defensive coordinator and asked why, and I told them to let me show you that I can play, and I ended up playing more after that. It showed them that I am ready, and I am sincere about this game, and I want to be out there.”
It was a bold move, one that Bridges said a lot of players would not go through with. But it didn’t surprise coaches.
“He believes a lot in what he does, he is a good student and very articulate and well-liked by the guys on the team,” defensive backs coach Cornell Ford said.
Bridges’ approach to getting on the field might seem unusual, but then again, so is he. Described by Ford as “a character,” Bridges has his share of quirks. For example, on nights before games, Bridges gets in the zone by competing in something less physical than football: he plays chess.
“It’s probably a little different than any other football player,” Bridges said. “Sometimes me and (MU reserve safety) Mack Breed play the night before games to get our minds right.”
Bridges says the board game helps him focus for the next day’s football game.
Since his talk with the coaching staff, he has seen his production on the field increase. His 42 tackles are the seventh most on the team this season.
A highly recruited junior college cornerback from Richmond, Calif., Bridges looked forward to playing immediately when he joined the Tigers in 2006. But after being redshirted in his first season, Bridges admits he had some second thoughts about his decision to play for the Tigers.
Coaches told him he would be a better player if he redshirted. But as someone used to getting his fair share of playing time, it took him a while to understand the coaches’ decision.
“I think it was one of those things where I had to wait for my shot and show them once I got in,” Bridges said.
Bridges picked an appropriate moment to show what he can do when in the third quarter of Missouri’s game against Kansas on Saturday he came up with with a clutch defensive play. Bridges brought the ball in one-handed off of a tipped pass thrown by Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing and raced 49 yards down the field before being pulled down by Kansas running back Brandon McAnderson.
“It was big especially at that point of the game,” Bridges said. “It could have gone a different way so getting a pick like that was huge.”
The play was that much sweeter for Bridges, considering he was flagged two plays earlier for a 15-yard facemask penalty that put Kansas on the Missouri 17-yard line.
“After the penalty, all I could think about was that I had to make up for it,” Bridges said. “We have these gradesheets we get, and I didn’t want to have that on mine.”
Bridges did make up for that earlier play and with his performance on the field lately, he’s been making up for lost time.