University of Missouri

MU cornerback DeMarkus Acy found a leadership role after being blamed for Kentucky loss

DeMarkus Acy at SEC Media Days

Missouri cornerback DeMarkus Acy talks about the upcoming season at SEC Media Days.
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Missouri cornerback DeMarkus Acy talks about the upcoming season at SEC Media Days.

On Oct. 27, 2018, DeMarkus Acy became permanently ingrained in Missouri fans’ minds after he was on the wrong side of a game-changing call.

With Missouri leading Kentucky 14-8 late in the fourth quarter, Acy was called for pass interference in the end zone on the final play in regulation. Wildcats wide receiver Ahmad Wagner was all over Acy’s helmet, but the officials said the flag was thrown for Acy and not Wagner.

Everyone knows what came next. Kentucky, ranked No. 12 nationally, scored on an untimed down and won 15-14, giving MU and Barry Odom a loss “that would last a lifetime.”

At SEC media days Monday, Acy said the play only stuck with him for 24 hours — part of the team’s philosophy — as he rattled off the infamous games he is now associated with.

“Missouri’s had the Fifth Down game, the Flea Kicker, (the Kentucky game),” he said. “I can’t do nothing about it. I just wash it away.”

Now Acy hopes to give MU fans something else to remember him by, as he enters his senior year as one of the top defensive backs in the conference and widely considered to be one of the team’s best NFL Draft prospects.

A second-team all-SEC selection last season, Acy led MU with three interceptions and has pro teams intrigued by his 6-foot-2 frame, considered tall for his position.

Acy has already started his season on an improved note as he’s become one of the biggest voices in the locker room after keeping to himself his first three seasons. Senior linebacker Cale Garrett, the team’s other main voice on defense, said Acy has become an extension of defensive coordinator Ryan Walters, who also coaches the secondary.

“It’s time to voice my opinion,” Acy said. “I’ve been playing in this league for pretty long now, why not talk?”

And on Monday, talk he did.

While Missouri’s other representatives in Garrett and quarterback Kelly Bryant were known for showing personality with the media, Acy showed just how far he has come out of his shell.

Asked how he feels about playing Tennessee, a team he had two picks against in November, Acy had no problem throwing shade toward Knoxville.

“I don’t know if you’ve seen the results,” Acy told the reporter, “but it’s pretty fun.”

When asked about Missouri’s upset win against No. 13 Florida a week after the Kentucky game, Acy called it a whooping and almost expressed sympathy at the Gators before thinking better of it.

Acy said he tries not to pay attention to the NFL Draft talk, but might take a peek every now and then as a motivating factor. After all, the same approach worked after the Kentucky game.

After Kentucky scored to win the game, Acy threw his helmet in frustration before returning to the locker room. He met with reporters after the game, and then checked his phone to find it full of text messages and missed calls. The people he spoke to were his mother and his high school coach, Elzie Barnett. While some were concerned for his safety and well-being, others were incredibly harsh.

“Hey,” one message read. “You lost us the game.”

Another text left Acy speechless. A Missouri fan got hold of his number and accused him of committing the penalty as a way of point-shaving.

“OK,” Acy said jokingly. “I guess I wanted my team to lose.”

Odom has high expectations for Acy and the secondary this season under the tutelage of former Texas Tech defensive coordinator David Gibbs, who has a specialty in increasing a team’s turnovers.

With the right season under Gibbs, Acy could back up all the NFL Draft talk that has already started with him. While Odom has tried to suppress hype around certain players heading into a season, he has no plans to do so with Acy. He’s finally a major voice on the team and has plenty to play for. Why not lay it all out there for him?

“He’ll thrive on (the recognition),” Odom said. “I expect him to have his best year.”

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Alex Schiffer has been covering the Missouri Tigers for The Star since October 2017. He came in second place for magazine-length feature writing by the U.S. Basketball Writer’s Association in 2018 and graduated from Mizzou in 2017.