Gatewood and his friends were eating orange
slices and drinking water during a break when
a football coach looked over at them and
yelled to his squad: “Okay, go over there and
get some orange slices like those sissy soccer
Gatewood just shrugged, he knew he could
play football, and if only that old football
coach could see him now.
After starring at White Station High School in
Memphis, he signed with Vandy, developing
into a force on the line. Gatewood led the
Commodores with seven sacks last season and
the rising senior is far from done harassing
His goal for 2007?
“That’s really ambitious, but I like to set the bar
high,” Gatewood said.
He always pushes himself, whether it’s in
practices or games. Gatewood’s speed can
change the course of a play, a series, a game.
“I don’t think Curtis Gatewood can go at a
slow speed. For him, he always plays fast,”
Vanderbilt defensive line coach Rick Logo
said. “It would be hard for me to tell him to
slow down; I don’t think he knows how.”
Logo first saw Gatewood during spring
practice of 2006 and he made quite an
impression on him.
“He’s the kind of guy that you’d always point
out that this is the speed we have to play as a
defensive unit,” Logo said. Gatewood’s
journey to Nashville wasn’t an easy one. He
burnt out after playing lineman and wide
receiver at St. Paul Elementary. Gatewood
even contemplated giving the sport up.
Imagine if he returned to the soccer fields.
However, the head coach at Havenview
Middle School saw Gatewood’s potential and
encouraged him to keep playing. According
to Gatewood, the coach told him: “I like your
size and your frame. I saw how you played at
St. Paul and I want you to come and play for
us. I have a position for you and I’m going to
help you enjoy the game.”
And the kid who originally played football just
to prove he wasn’t a sissy, developed a love
for the game. Gatewood was also pretty
“He taught me the game and I developed a
passion for it,” Gatewood said. “I think that’s
where it all started.”
Gatewood graduated from Havenview and
moved on to White Station, where he played
football and basketball. No soccer. After
playing both sports during his freshman and
sophomore years, Gatewood decided it was
best to concentrate on the sport that he most
Gatewood had played that sport for years and
dreamed of playing it in college some day. His
mother was a huge basketball fan and fully
supported his decision to not play football
during his junior season.
“She just didn’t want me to get hurt. I think
she loves basketball,” Gatewood said. “She’s
like a sports fanatic but her favorite sport is
But Gatewood returned to the gridiron as a
senior and earned a full ride to Vandy. He also
received offers from Mississippi State,
Tennessee Tech, Memphis, but, for the most
part, flew under the recruiting radar.
Nobody ever heard about me or knew about
me,” Gatewood said. “We sent my highlight
tapes to a couple of schools and the word got
out and a couple schools recruited me.”
Gatewood played linebacker as a freshman
and sophomore, moving to defensive end
during the spring of 2006. Not only did
Gatewood have seven sacks last year, but he
added 10.5 tackles for a loss. The most at
Vandy in a long, long time. Gatewood started
every game at defensive end and earned codefensive
MVP with defensive tackle Theo Horrocks.
It’s no wonder Vandy coach Bobby Johnson
has such high expectations for him this fall.
“Curtis is one of those full speed kind of guys.
It’s just fun to watch him play football,”
Johnson said. “We expect a big year out of
him. I think he’s developed his leadership
capabilities and our guys look to Curtis to
make big plays and set the tone in practice.
He sure sets it in practice, he goes full speed
all the time.”
Gatewood has NFL inspirations and if Gatewood has a special season maybe it can happen. Logo said
"Gatewood is already learning from the
pros." Logo continued, "He’s been able to watch cut ups of different schools,
what they are doing in the NFL, and he’s
bringing those tangibles to the defensive line.
You think about defensive linemen going
against offensive linemen, you think about
players locking up and grinding in there.
Curtis can do that but he can also run a route.
He can do both and there are not a lot of
people that can catch him and there’s not a
lot of people that can lock up on him because
he's starting to understand that leverage, speed
and agility is going to help him beat a lot of
blocks that he’s going to face.” Gatewood
was used as speed defensive end in 2006, but
is expected to play more in all situations
during 2007. He could play a big part in
Vandy improving on last year’s 4-8 record. The
Commodores return nine players on offense
and eight on defense, including linebacker
Jonathan Goff, an NFL prospect. Goff and
Gatewood could make a nice combo. How’s
this for a nickname: The Killer G’s.
The pundits are already talking about Vandy’s
hellish road slate this fall: Auburn, South Carolina, Florida and Tennessee.
It could be tough a road. But if Gatewood
plays like the way he plans, it will make life
much easier for Vandy. Thank God Gatewood
gave up soccer and basketball.