University of Kansas

He committed to KU in his bare chest. Now, this freshman’s goal is to play right away

Gavin Potter knows what it’s like to go viral — and also the craziness that comes with it.

The Kansas true freshman linebacker, by his own admission, is a bit of a goofball. His longtime goal was to be able to play Division I football and have a press conference to announce his school. So, on that particular day, he decided to have some fun with it.

Potter, who had not disclosed his college choice, took his seat in front of reporters on Feb. 6 while wearing a purple Kansas State sweatshirt.

“I would like to sign with, um ... “

He pulled the hoodie off to reveal a Texas Tech shirt. Some people in the crowd started clapping.

Potter wasn’t done, though. He plucked the red garment over his head, exposing his bare chest — painted blue with a white “KU” on it to indicate he was committing to the Jayhawks.

“I didn’t think it was gonna blow up,” Potter said.

It did.

A few hours later, Barstool Sports — with its 1.7 million Twitter followers — shared Potter’s commitment video. Shortly after, the site had a story up: “Recruit tears off shirt, commits to Kansas with body paint, poses shirtless with girls.”

Potter’s cell phone lit up with notifications after that.

“People were texting me and they’re like, ‘Do you see this? This is so funny,” Potter said.

Others were contacting him as well — “hateful comments,” according to Potter, from fanbases making sure to let him know that his act was not appreciated.

“I’m the type of person ... that doesn’t really faze me,” Potter said. “I just kind of thought it was funny. A lot of people, I think, took me serious, like I was trying to like act cocky or something. But I was just wanting to have fun with it.”

Knowing only this background about Potter, and the next few sentences likely won’t come as a surprise:

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound linebacker from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, is confident in his own abilities. And he also believes, after just arriving on campus this summer, that he’ll be able to earn playing time right away.

“Anywhere I would have went, that’s what I would have wanted to do,” Potter said. “That’s just a goal I’ve set for myself is to do that.”

It appears he’s well on his way.

Potter, who moved from outside to inside linebacker to address a KU depth issue, is already drawing praise. Coach Les Miles singled him out during last week’s media day as a newcomer that has “made the transition really well” while also having a knack for football.

Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, meanwhile, said definitively that Potter should be a contributor in his first year.

“He learns fast,” Eliot said, “and he understands the game very well.”

Much of that comes from Potter’s previous history; he played quarterback for his first three years at Broken Arrow High before switching over to linebacker. In his only season there, Potter recorded 92 tackles and two sacks while also becoming a finalist for the Tulsa World’s state defensive player of the year honor.

His interest in KU increased once the school hired Miles in November. Potter first learned of the transaction when flipping through Google on his phone.

“I was like, ‘There’s no way that this is true.’ Then I went and looked and saw that he really was, and I was like, ‘OK,’” Potter said. “Then I was just like sitting there thinking for a little bit. I was like, ‘Wouldn’t it be crazy if he called me on the phone and offered me?’”

Two days later, that exact conversation took place. Potter admits he was a bit starstruck, stuttering some as Miles spoke to him.

In the end, Potter said the connection he felt with KU’s coaches was one of the biggest reasons for his commitment.

“They made me feel wanted,” Potter said. “I feel like that’s one of the biggest things in recruiting is that you obviously don’t want to go spend four years somewhere where you don’t really feel like you’re wanted. I definitely felt like I was wanted here, and I still feel like it.”

The goal now is to learn a little more each day. Potter is working closely with inside linebackers coach Mike Ekeler. He’s also been aided by teammate Jay Dineen, who has been quick to offer guidance when his buddy needs it.

Potter — a three-star prospect according to Rivals and 247Sports — will need to absorb things quickly. With the graduation of starters Joe Dineen and Keith Loneker, the Jayhawks have immediate playing time available at linebacker, starting with Aug. 31’s opener against Indiana State.

If nothing else, confidence shouldn’t be an issue for Potter, who came to KU believing he’d be able to help the rebuild right away.

“Just to start a program from the ground up — it’s going to be amazing when everything turns around,” Potter said. “It’s just going to be something that people didn’t expect.”

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Jesse Newell — he’s won an EPPY for best sports blog and previously has been named top beat writer in his circulation by AP’s Sports Editors — has covered KU sports since 2008. His interest in sports analytics comes from his math teacher father, who handed out rulers to Trick-or-Treaters each year.