Gahn McGaffie had an inkling the ball would come his way.
“As we were sitting in the hotel, before we got on the bus and headed to the stadium, I always sit in my recliner chair and just look out the window, visualizing myself making plays,” McGaffie explained. “That day, I visualized them kicking the ball to me.”
It was just past 7 p.m. Oct. 23, 2010. The No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners and the No. 11 Missouri Tigers had just taken the field inside Memorial Stadium, surrounded by 71,004 gold-clad fans, all anxious for one of the most anticipated games in the school’s recent history to begin.
Sure enough, the now-redshirt senior wide receiver’s hunch was right.
“At the start of the game when they kicked it off and the ball came my way I was like, ‘No way,’” he said. “So I finally pick the ball up and as I was running. I started leaning to the right to set my blockers up and, as I leaned to the right, everybody moved to the right, so I snuck left, made some moves, went up the field and the rest is history."
The 86-yard touchdown return landed McGaffie a permanent place in Tiger lore and sent the stands of Memorial Stadium into bedlam.
It was a moment he and spectators will likely never forget.
But it is a moment from which he would like to move on.
“I can’t seem to get away from it, but I’m going to try to this year," he said.
The Galena Park, Texas, native appeared to be on his way to a spot in MU’s wide receiver rotation last season before a sprained knee sidelined him for the Tigers’ first three games.
McGaffie finished the 2011 season with just three catches for 18 yards, bumping his career total to nine catches for 58 yards.
With starting H receiver T.J. Moe limited thus far during fall camp’s first eight days with a hamstring injury, McGaffie has gotten another unlikely opportunity to shine, much like he did on that 2010 Homecoming night.
McGaffie, who for the second consecutive spring was named the team’s most improved receiver, has been taking the first-team reps in Moe’s place.
Wide receivers coach Andy Hill said he likes what he’s seen.
“Gahn’s shown up,” Hill said. “He thinks through his routes, he has a plan when he gets to the line of scrimmage, he’s tough enough to block people. … Overall he’s doing great.”
Hill lists McGaffie’s “super” quickness in space and ability to find a way to get open “at least 90 percent” of the time as his best attributes.
McGaffie put those skills on display during Thursday morning’s practice, finding holes in the defense’s zone and hauling in two passes – one for 25 yards, the other for 15 during 11-on-11. Earlier in practice during a passing drill, McGaffie baited senior linebacker Will Ebner to the outside with a head fake before cutting his route inside, although junior quarterback James Franklin’s pass was high and sailed out of the back of the end zone.
“Right now I’m just taking advantage of the opportunity, trying to go out here and make my teammates better, and to build a better relationship with James,” McGaffie said.
McGaffie’s consistency is what has most impressed Moe, the incumbent H position starter.
“It’s clicked for him,” Moe said. “It clicks at different times for everybody, and it’s really just clicked for him, and now he’s playing every single day instead of being a little bit spotty like he was earlier in his career. ... He’s good — he may be a starter when it’s all said and done. Maybe not at that spot (H position), but somewhere.”
So how many other schools does Moe think McGaffie could step in and immediately start at?
“All of them,” Moe quickly said. “We’ve got one of the best receiving corps in the country.”
What role McGaffie, who graduated earlier this past May, will play during his final season as a Tiger remains to be seen. Regardless of what his role in a crowded receiving group ends up being, McGaffie’s ready to make new memories for Tiger faithful.
“Once I get the opportunities, y’all will see there’s more to me than just the Oklahoma kickoff return,” he said.