Missouri left guard Anthony Gatti was pulling toward the right sideline and reaching on a zone block during the first quarter Saturday against Indiana when his right knee popped.
Gatti, a 6-foot-6 and 315-pound senior from suburban St. Louis, felt a familiar burning sensation and knew his career was finished before he fell to the turf at Memorial Stadium.
“I knew pretty much right when happened,” Gatti said. “I’ve had three prior knee injuries. You know when something’s wrong, especially an ACL. … I just went to step and heard the pop. I knew there was no turning back from there.”
Gatti, a fifth-year senior, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee for the second time and won’t set foot on the field with the Tigers again. He’s not eligible for a medical redshirt.
“He will be out for the season,” Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Monday during his weekly press conference. “It’s unfortunate — senior, been through an awful lot here, had a lot of surgeries here.”
Gatti tore the ACL, MCL and meniscus in his right knee as a senior in high school at Parkway North in St. Louis.
With the Tigers, he tore the ACL in his left knee in 2011 and had surgery to repair the quadriceps tendon in that same knee in 2012.
Once his right knee is repaired again, Gatti will have had five total surgeries, but he said he doesn’t regret the toll his football career has taken on his knees.
“I had a blast, even going through this,” Gatti said. “It’s just the experience. Some of these guys I’ll be friends with for the rest of my life.”
While Gatti’s playing career is finished, his Missouri career is not.
“Now, his role will change as being a leader more so,” Pinkel said. “That’s how he’ll contribute, and we’re appreciative of that.”
It’s another challenge Gatti is eager to accept.
“It’s not the way I wanted to end my career, but I always just try to think positive and know that God’s got a plan for everybody,” Gatti said. “Maybe something good’s going to come down the road. … I’m going to definitely stick around and help these guys out with everything I can.”
Gatti, who already earned a bachelor’s degree in agribusiness management and is working on a master’s degree through Missouri’s positive coaching program, doesn’t know yet if he’ll be on the travel squad for games, but he will be at practice every day offering his encouragement and analysis.
Junior Brad McNulty will step into Gatti’s starting spot at left guard. He played in 11 games, including five starts, at center in 2012.
McNulty isn’t the only moving piece on a struggling offensive line.
Junior Connor McGovern will move from right tackle back to right guard, where he started all 14 games last season.
Junior Taylor Chappell, who worked at right tackle when McGovern was sidelined because of a pectoral strain during preseason camp, slides into the starting role at right tackle.
Also on the injury front, sophomore running back Morgan Steward remains sidelined because of a hip injury and senior wide receiver Darius White will be sidelined against South Carolina because of a strained groin.
Junior Wesley Leftwich will start in White’s place at Z receiver. Pinkel said Leftwich will split reps with redshirt freshman J’Mon Moore.
Senior defensive end Markus Golden, who sat out the loss to Indiana because of a strained hamstring, no longer appears on the injury report and should be available against the Gamecocks.