Gophers receiver Clay Geary's 7 year journey from Lakeville walk-on to the end zone


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Nov 12, 2008
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Clay Geary, by his own admission, couldn't stop smiling.

Geary got his first career start in the Gophers' 49-7 victory over Colorado on Saturday and delivered a highlight-reel touchdown catch. Late in the third quarter, he leapt to haul in Tanner Morgan's pinpoint throw and got the needed one foot in bounds and a second for good measure.

"I was ecstatic,'' Geary said of his 8-yard catch. "… You saw my teammates rushing over to me, hugging me like they knew how special that was.''

Suddenly, the 24-year-old wide receiver from Lakeville is an overnight success — in his seventh season on campus.

And the thing is, the Gophers will need Geary to be much more than a feel-good story because their top wide receiver, Chris Autman-Bell, suffered a season-ending lower leg injury against the Buffaloes.

When the Gophers (3-0) visit Michigan State (2-1) on Saturday, the onus shifts to a group of receivers to work together to replace the productivity and reliability of Autman-Bell, their undisputed leader.

"He's the heartbeat of our offense, honestly,'' Geary said. "… No one guy is going to replace Chris.''..

Seventh year a charm?

After patiently biding his time with the Gophers, Geary hopes to emerge as a playmaker. It's been a slow and steady climb:

2016: Geary redshirts after accepting a preferred walk-on offer.

2017: Played one play in the season finale.

2018: Played on special teams and had one reception in eight games.

2019: Earned a scholarship, which the Gophers awarded him as a surprise, when he threw out the first pitch at a Twins game. Saw action in 10 games.
2020: Had five receptions in five games in a year that didn't count toward eligibility because of COVID-19.

2021: Missed the season because of a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament suffered in training camp, which led to a seventh year of eligibility from the NCAA.


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