COLUMBIA — There was a time not long ago when Missouri tackle Elvis Fisher dreamed of doing exactly what he’ll get a chance to do Saturday: play in the famed Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, also known as “The Swamp.”
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Fisher went to high school in St. Petersburg, Fla., roughly a three-hour drive from Gainesville. So of course he was wearing the orange and blue of the Florida Gators, not the black and gold of Mizzou, in those dreams.
“I did grow up a Gators fan,” said Fisher, a sixth-year senior who Rivals.com deemed a three-star prospect coming out of high school.
Fisher, however, never got an offer, though he says he was on the Gators’ radar.
“I wasn’t highly recruited by them,” Fisher said. “I was more of a second-tier guy. But I really wanted to go there coming out of high school.”
After a chat with his father, however, Fisher said he realized he shouldn’t go to a place that didn’t want him. With offers from Duke, Maryland, North Carolina State, South Florida and West Virginia in hand, Fisher eventually settled on Missouri.
“Missouri showed interest in me since my sophomore year,” Fisher said. “So they were interested, and that’s why I came here.”
Fisher says a number of friends and family will get to see him suit up for the Tigers against the hometown Gators at 11 a.m. Saturday, though there’s a good chance he’ll be sharing a few reps here and there.
In recent weeks, Fisher, who missed all of last year because of a knee injury and three games this season because of a sprained MCL, has been rotating with sophomore Anthony Gatti. It’s a move designed to keep Fisher fresher and get Gatti some experience.
“He still gets tired a little bit,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said of Fisher. “With Anthony getting in there and playing a little bit, that gives him a little bit of a break so in the fourth quarter he can be a little bit stronger.”
Gatti said the coaching staff told him a couple weeks ago that he needed to “pick it up a little bit,” and it appears he’s answered the bell.
“He’s getting better,” Pinkel said. “It’s all based on how you practice and that’s how we determine how guys play, and he’s been practicing better, more consistent, so we decided to get him more reps.”
Gatti is eager to make an impression, considering he will be one of the main contenders to start at tackle next season.
“I’m trying to prove to (the coaches) that I can contribute to the team and be a stone in there,” Gatti said, “so next year, when Elvis leaves, I’m good to go. They won’t have to worry about who is playing left tackle.”
Junior Justin Britt, the starter on the right side, is also an obvious candidate to make the switch back to the left side next year, where he played all of 2011. It’s worth noting that Gatti will also have to hold off redshirt freshman Taylor Chappell, who appeared to be the top backup at tackle until he tore his ACL in preseason camp.
But for now, Gatti is only concerned about getting better and doing his job every snap, something Fisher sees his understudy doing.
“If the coaches feel like he’s ready to play, shoot, rotate him as much as you want,” Fisher said. “That just works out for everyone.”
There was a time, Fisher noted, that he might have been more stubborn about coming out. Of course, things do change with age — college football allegiances among them.
“I don’t hold a grudge — it’s too long ago,” Fisher said of the way Florida overlooked him. “I’m happy with the decision I made.”