By Frankie Mansfield
You might miss Casey Gladney streaking down the sideline after hauling in a long pass. Or evading defenders on an option run. Maybe he was returning a kickoff back to midfield or breaking up a pass attempt on defense.
The 6-foot-2, 180 pound do-it-all speedster from Columbia High accumulated some big numbers in 2011 using his versatility to trouble opposing teams, primarily with his speed.
“Casey has that God-given speed that you just don’t see every day,” Capitals coach Kemper Amick said. “He’s a natural athlete that can just plain out fly. Everything is easy for him and it always has been.”
While his primary position is wide receiver, Gladney says he’s willing to line up anywhere.
A three-sport athlete at Columbia High, Gladney is confident on any field.
“Really anything with a ball, I believe I can do it,” he said. “Just put the ball in my hands, and I’m going to try and make a play.”
In 2010, as a junior, Gladney caught 50 passes for 865 yards and 16 touchdowns.
Gladney’s impressive statistics and sub-4.4 speed garnered the attention of several major universities the summer before his senior year of high school, including Alabama, where Gladney committed to in June 2011.
Last season, he ranked among the top receivers in the state with 62 cathces for 1,291 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging over 20 yards per catch. He also played defense, punter, punt returner, and kick returner – averaging 27 yards per return.
But by February’s National Signing Day, Gladney had a change of heart signing to play for Texas Tech rather than Alabama.
“At the end of the day, it’s where I felt was best for me,” said Gladney. “The (Texas Tech) coaches wanted me there and think I can make an immediate impact.”
Former NFL star Cris Carter spent a day working with Gladney the summer before his senior year at a Crimson Tide football camp and the future hall of fame wide receiver had some high prasie for Gladney. Carter commended Gladney’s body control and hands, telling Amick how much Casey reminded him of himself.
“He loved what Casey was doing that day, getting in and out of breaks and catching the football” Amick said. “When a player like Cris Carter compares you to himself, I’d say that’s pretty good.”
Gladney has been working hard not only on the football field but also in the classroom, spending his senior year rededicating himself to his studies and easing any concerns about his academic eligibility in college.
“I just stay focused everyday in the classroom,” said Gladney. “Every day after school, everybody’s in study hall. I’m in the teacher’s class room making sure I’m where I need to be and making sure I’m doing what it takes to accomplish my goals.”