VandyMania Interview: Curtis Gatewood, J. P. Day

LB Curtis Gatewood

Second-year outside linebacker Curtis Gatewood is ready to make an impact after spending his first year on the scout team as a redshirt. J.P. Day is a second-year walk-on offensive lineman whose chances of playing time are slim. Both spoke with VandyMania about the upcoming season and their outside interests.

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Ed. Note: Redshirt freshman linebacker Curtis Gatewood is expected to be one of the top newcomers for Vanderbilt this season after spending a year on the scout team. The Memphis native is up to 225 pounds after reporting at 210 last year, and has impressed his coaches with his aggressiveness and athleticism at the outside linebacker position.

VandyMania: Curtis, you redshirted last year. How has fall camp been for you so far this year? I'm guessing it was a lot easier this time around.

Redshirt freshman linebacker Curtis Gatewood: Well, it hasn't been necessarily easy. It's just been a matter of getting the experience that I need to play-- that's the most challenging thing right now. As far as me performing and producing, I feel pretty good about it.

VM: Which linebacker position have you been working at?

Curtis: Outside linebacker, the Sam (strongside) position.

VM: There's a lot of competition at that position. You're backing up Herdley Harrison?

Curtis: Yeah. I think the thing is, we have a lot of athletic linebackers, so yeah, we compete with each other every day. It's been great, though. I've been learning so much from Herdley, because he has so much experience. I've been learning from him, and getting acclimated in the program. It's all going well.

VM: Was it kind of hard for you to work on the scout team last year?

Curtis: Actually, it wasn't that hard. I thought it was pretty fun. There's not much pressure, and you get a chance to go out there and show the coaches what you can do. Last year was really a time for me to really show myself that I belong here.

VM: What are some of your interests off the field?

Curtis: I like music... I like to make music. I play the bongos, and a little guitar.

VM: Do you play in a band?

Curtis: No, I don't have a band. My church also means a lot to me. I go to Bethel here in Nashville. I'm really into the church.

Curtis Gatewood poses with his mom, Beverly, at Dore Jam 2004.

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Ed. note: J.P. Day practiced with the scout team last year as a freshman walk-on defensive tackle, and saw no game action. At the beginning of this year's fall camp, he was asked to switch to offensive guard.

VandyMania: J.P., you walked onto the team last year, and you caught a lot of people's eyes right away. You're a lot bigger than the average walk-on. How big are you exactly?

J.P. Day: I'm 6-6 now, and about 305 pounds.

VM: You were playing at tackle last year on defense, but this year they decided to move you over to offense. How big of a switch is that for you?

J.P.: Yeah, they've moved me over to offensive guard. I played both ways (offensive and defensive line) in high school, so it's not that big of a switch. There's definitely a difference, but it's a difference in the next level of offensive line. I hadn't done it in a while before fall camp started this year. But I've been getting it going again. I think that most of the mentality that I had on defensive line is helping me out now on offensive line. I'm learning a lot. Coach Caldwell is a great teacher. Hopefully by the end of camp, I'll be able to help the team out.

VM: It's hard enough to play college football, but you're not only doing it, you're paying your way through school. A lot of walk-ons ultimately end up quitting the team. Is it tougher to be a walk-on? Do you find that the coaches treat you with the same respect as everyone else?

J.P.: Oh, they treat me with the exact same respect. I feel it's a privilege even to be on the team. For example, if they ask me to go to offensive line to help out on depth, then yeah, I'll definitely switch. I loved playing defense, but I will play offense for this team.

VM: At what point last year did you decide, I'm going to try out for the football team?

J.P.: Actually I was looked at by a bunch of teams out of Indiana, my home state. A bunch of Ivy League schools, mostly Brown, looked at me too. When I decided to come to Vanderbilt, I knew I wanted to play football, more than just at the high school level. I wanted to succeed at college football. I knew it would be a big step, but I gave Coach Johnson my tape, and he said he'd like to see what I had to offer. When I came up here, I think he was pleased with my performance, and the way I improved all last year. Hopefully I'll do the same on offensive line this year and help the team out.

VM: If you had to guess at your chances for actually getting into a game this fall, what would you say?

J.P.: It depends on how much better I get on offensive line, I guess. Right now I'd say the chances are slim to none! But it depends on how I finish out camp. I know I'll be getting better, so I'm going to fight for that position.

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