Missouri redshirt freshman defensive end Walter Brady wasn’t even allowed to study film a year ago at this time.
As much as he itched to pull on a Tigers jersey and lay a lick on somebody, Brady, a native of Florence, Ala., was barred from all football-related activities — on the field or off — as a partial NCAA qualifier last season.
“It was very frustrating, especially the process of just trying to get enrolled,” Brady said. “It became even more hard to deal with and hard to understand as the season came around, knowing that I couldn’t be out there with my teammates. It really hurt.”
Brady’s problem stemmed from an unaccredited online class he took in high school, which didn’t meet NCAA eligibility requirements.
“That set me back, and I had to take two online courses over the summer and get A’s in that to make up for it,” Brady said.
He finished both, earning the required grades. It allowed him to enroll — Brady arrived at MU on Sept. 5 last year — but he still had some academic work to clean up before he was cleared to play football.
Instead of getting reps behind Markus Golden and Shane Ray, Brady went to class, met with tutors and hung out around his dormitory.
“It was a lot of study hall and a lot of classes, but I ended up taking care of my business,” he said.
It also provided plenty of fuel for spring football when he was finally cleared to play.
“Definitely,” Brady said, “I played a little (peeved), and at myself as well, because I allowed myself to get that far behind in the first place. But I came in strong, had a strong showing in the spring.”
It carried over through fall camp and into the regular season.
Brady leads Missouri with five sacks this season, and 7 1/2 of his 13 tackles have gone for a loss. He also had an interception against South Carolina, setting up a back-breaking touchdown in the third quarter of a 24-10 victory Saturday.
“He’s been very impressive,” senior safety and captain Ian Simon said. “He’s filling a huge void. We needed somebody to step up at that defensive end spot, and he’s doing a fantastic job. Walter’s been playing some pretty lights-out football the past couple games.”
Missouri’s vaunted defensive line, D-Line Zou, was hard hit by graduation (Golden, Lucas Vincent and Matt Hoch) and an early NFL defection (Ray).
Depth issues up front were further complicated when end Marcus Loud was dismissed from the team in May and tackle Harold Brantley was severely injured in a car wreck in June.
“He’s a really good player,” coach Gary Pinkel said of Brady. “He’s getting better and better and better. There’s a lot of competition there, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the defensive front. After Harold not being there, losing the players that we have in the last couple of years, these freshmen are coming in and playing at a high level.”