When Vanderbilt recruited you, did they tell you a certain position you were being recruited for?
Curtis: They recruited me as an outside linebacker-- either Sam (strongside) or Will (weakside).
VM: I understand you didn't play football at all your junior year. There's got to be a good story there.
Curtis: Well, I was really chasing the "hoop dream." I always wanted to be like Michael Jordan, so I thought I could make it to college playing basketball. But I found out through coaches and my parents, and praying, that football is my sport. So I came out my senior year, and I had a pretty good season. I did play as a freshman and sophomore.
VM: So at the beginning of your junior year you decided to just concentrate on basketball?
Curtis: Actually at the end of my sophomore year, I decided that I could work on my game in basketball and become a superstar (laugh), and probably make it to a high D-1 college. Once I came to my senses and figured out that I'm a football player, the doors just started opening.
VM: You played on a pretty good basketball team at White Station, right? Are you pretty close friends with [Tennessee signee] Dane Bradshaw?
Curtis: Yeah, we're pretty cool. We got along. But he was an SEC basketball player, and I was an SEC football player. I played power forward and center [in basketball] for White Station.
VM: How tall are you exactly? When we originally got the information on you, it said you were 6-1, but you're taller than that, aren't you?
Curtis: Yeah, I'm 6-3. Right now I weigh right at 215.
VM: Have you been timed in the 40?
Curtis: Last time I was timed, I was at 4.5 flat.
VM: Tell me about the recruiting process for you. My guess is that since you didn't play your junior year, you probably didn't draw as much interest as you would have otherwise.
Curtis: That's what my football coaches tell me-- maybe if I'd have come out my junior year, I probably would have been looked at by more. But I think it turned out for the good, because Vanderbilt's a great school, and it's the only place I really want to go. I didn't want to be recruited by anyone else. Vanderbilt is where I'm going.
VM: What was it that sold you on them?
Curtis: It's kind of ironic, because before they were recruiting me in football, I was looking at them for academics. I thought they had a great engineering program. I felt that that would have been the place for me to go, but based on academics alone, I might not have been able to go. When they started recruiting me in football, that was really a door opening for me. I didn't need to go on any more visits. My mind was set on Vanderbilt. I was pretty much sure before I took my visit. We went down there, and I liked the campus. I liked the coaches. It was a great Christian atmosphere. I liked the teammates-- everybody had their heads on straight. They were reaching for a goal. So that's the kind of atmosphere I wanted.
VM: Other than Rushen Jones, there haven't been a whole lot of Memphis players sign with Vanderbilt. Why do you think that is?
Curtis: I'm still trying to figure out why more Memphis players haven't been recruited to Vanderbilt. But hey, I was fortunate. I was blessed to get chosen to come down there and take a visit.
VM: Tell me about the training program Vanderbilt is putting you through this summer.
Curtis: The most challenging part is the running, the conditioning. We have a lot of conditioning drills, and it's kind of challenging. But the weightlifting part, it's a great program. It's the best program I've ever done.
VM: What are you going to do with the rest of your summer after the All-Star Game?
Curtis: Nothing major. I'm just going to work out and try to get ready for the season. Just stick to my program. I haven't decided yet if I will go up to Nashville early or not. I might.
VM: Coach [Warren] Belin will be your position coach, right?
Curtis: Oh man, he's great! He's really cool. He gets you relaxed, but at the same time you know he's very serious about what he's telling you. He gets you in a relaxed mood where you're not too intimidated, but at the same time you feel comfortable. You know that you have to go out there and do your thing.
VM: Have you been able to form a friendship with any of the other signees in your class yet?
Curtis: Marcus Buggs... I met him in orientation. We went through it together, and we kind of clicked. He's a great guy. He talks about how he likes Nashville, and I talk about Memphis. Right now he's really the only one.
At the end of his sophomore year of high school, Curtis Gatewood had a choice to make-- the talented athlete from Memphis-White Station gave up football to concentrate on basketball. Two years later, he is about to begin a four-year commitment to Vanderbilt-- on a football scholarship. Gatewood talks about his odyssey that ultimately led him back to the gridiron.
Curtis Gatewood talks about his difficult choice to play football over basketball.
Curtis Gatewood (VandyMania / B. Wiseman)