Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou's Gatti Embraces Final Chance

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mizzou's Gatti Embraces Final Chance

Article excerpt

COLUMBIA, Mo. * Emblazoned on his left arm is a reminder of Anthony Gatti's unique combination of DNA. His family tree is the inspiration behind the tattoo: a Native American chief under the green, white and red of the Italian national flag.

Gatti's father, Ralph Gatti, has both Native American and Italian ancestors on his side of the family tree.

Gatti's tattoo artist did the design by freehand, which left Gatti nervously watching as the ink poured into his skin.

"Because that's on me forever," he said.

Gatti doesn't need artwork to commemorate the history that's defined most of his college career. Those reminders creak and ache every morning. He's got scars from multiple surgeries, so many that he's lost count.

"Four or five," he said.

Gatti tapped his right knee.

"ACL, MCL, meniscus."

Then he tapped his left knee.

"ACL, meniscus, quad tendon."

"And," finally, he added, "shoulder."

But the former Parkway North star can put off the pain for another season as long as he maintains the starting job he's earned this spring. Gatti, who started two games at left guard last season, has held down the same position through three weeks of preseason camp and should stay there when the season begins Aug. 30 against South Dakota State.

"Knees hurt every day," he said. "Shoulder hurts every day. But, you know, it's part of the grind. That's why you play the game. Whatever happens out there, I'm going to stick in there. And unless my leg's broken knock on wood I'm going to fight for my brothers that are beside me."

When Gatti first arrived at Mizzou in 2010 he was still recovering from major knee surgery that ended his senior year at Parkway North. When healthy, he's spent his career as a backup tackle but last year moved to guard as senior Max Copeland's backup on the left side. When a sprained ankle kept Copeland out of the starting lineup against Indiana and Arkansas State, Gatti joined the starters for the two September games then went back to the second unit for the season's final 10 games.

"Just to get those first couple games under the belt were nice because you're not really nervous," said Gatti, who hasn't shaved his beard since earning his undergraduate degree in May, part of the O-line's oath to unfurl beards and mullets this season.

"You're always nervous before a game, but you're not as nervous as you are if you've never played before and you're going out there for the first time. It's good to have that experience and come out and have some confidence this year."

First-year offensive coach A.J. Ricker said Gatti still has areas to improve as an interior blocker he played tackle his whole life until last year but described the fifth-year senior as a "blue collar guy.

"You like his mental aspect and his toughness," Ricker said. "I wouldn't substitute that for anything. . He started at the bottom up and he's getting his shot now. …

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