Because of his father’s affiliation with the sport, Austin Gatewood has grown up around football. He’s heard stories of his dad’s playing days and wants an opportunity of his own to play at the collegiate level.
He seems certain to get that chance.
The 6-foot-1, 215-pound senior linebacker is the No. 13 player on the Times Free Press Dynamite Baker’s Dozen for 2013. The elite group is one more than usual as a continuation of the newspaper’s “13 for ‘13” preseason package.
As a junior the Hurricanes’ Gatewood made 57 tackles and two interceptions, including one he returned 83 yards for a touchdown against Bradley Central. He also plays a hybrid fullback/H-back position on offense and had 12 catches for 188 yards and three touchdowns in 2012.
His dad, East Hamilton head coach Ted Gatewood, played for Memphis State from 1985 to ‘87 and earned Associated Press All-America honorable mention as a center in 1986. Austin said he knows his father would be excited to watch him play in college.
“I know it would make him happy — both as a parent and as a coach,” Austin said. “He’s never pressured or forced me to play football. He has always told me that if I wanted to do it, to go do it.”
He said the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Appalachian State, Memphis, Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee State have shown interest in him, while 247Sports.com adds North Carolina State, Northern Illinois, Tennessee and Tennessee Tech among others paying attention. He has no scholarship offers yet, but another deep run in the playoffs could get more eyes on his abilities and enhance his options.
His primary concern is staying focused and playing a vital role on the team.
“I consider myself a leader by example,” he said. “Before games, we all spread out across the school and get focused. I like to find the darkest room around and picture myself making big-time plays.”
Gatewood hit .366 for the Hurricanes baseball team in 2013. He said that if he weren’t playing football he’d be fully devoted to life on the diamond but admitted that he’s extremely “biased toward football.” He’s been patiently waiting as the recruiting process moves toward the regular season — one in which the Hurricanes are expected to be among the top teams in 5-AAA, as well as Class 5A once the playoffs begin.
Just up from 6-AA, East Hamilton was selected first in the recent 5-AAA media day, both by coaches and media members.
“We’ve just learned to ignore the outside noise,” Austin said. “We’re honored to be ranked No. 1, but we just want to go out every day and get better. The wins will take care of themselves.”
He said the same thing about scholarship offers.
“I’ll end up wherever God wants me to end up at,” he said.
<em>Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.</em>