By Ryan Atkinson
Globe Sports Writer
Keeston Terry wasn’t sure what to expect when he played his first home game for the Pittsburg State Gorillas last week.
The 6-foot-2, 190-pound junior safety started 10 of 11 games for the Kansas Jayhawks in the Big 12 last season, so it would be understandable if he was a little underwhelmed at what awaited him at Carnie Smith Stadium.
“Actually, it was probably a little bit better than I expected,” said Terry of the atmosphere, which was fueled by the second-largest home crowd in school history.
“I didn’t really have many expectations. I heard it was a great atmosphere, probably the best in Division II. It was exciting to walk down the Gorilla Walk and see all the fans be so supportive.”
Terry and the top-ranked Gorillas are back on the road today, facing Southwest Baptist at 1 p.m. in what should be a much more subdued atmosphere.
Terry was a three-year Missouri Class 5 all-state receiver at Blue Springs High School, where he played with a handful of current Gorillas, including Gus Toca, Brady Letchworth and Boston Higgins.
But Terry went Division I, deciding to play safety for Turner Gill’s Jayhawks.
His freshman season was cut short due to an injury, but he was the fourth-leading tackler for KU last season and registered an interception and a pair of pass breakups.
Gill was fired after the season and Terry, already unhappy at Kansas, started seeking a transfer. When Charlie Weis arrived, Terry was even more unhappy. And when Weis discovered that Terry was looking into other options, he dismissed Terry from the team.
“I went to his first meeting with the team and he was dog-cussing the players and was very arrogant,” Terry told the Independence Examiner back in February. “I didn’t was to be a part of that.”
He flirted with Northern Iowa and Northwest Missouri before deceiving to land in Pittsburg.
“I knew they had guys down here who worked hard. Knowing Gus and Brady and guys like Boston Higgins, guys who have worked hard since I’ve known them since being little, that definitely played a part for me to come down here,” Terry said.
Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck saw Terry play in high school and knew he was a special athlete when he participated in team camps at PSU.
And the fact that Terry didn’t have any problems at KU was a plus.
“He’s a really good football player. He understands. He’s a great person and good student,” Beck said. “He’s not a typical transfer because he really had no issues at all other than it was time for a change for him.”
And Beck said he won’t rule out Terry getting some snaps at receiver this season, although he has already made a splash at safety, including an interception in Saturday’s win over Central Oklahoma.
“There’s always a possibility,” Beck said. “During the recruiting progress it was still up in the air at one point whether we were going to put him on the offensive side or the defensive side. There’s no question he’d be good on that side as well.
“When you take that kind of athleticism and put him on the defensive side, when he makes an interception, he’s got a chance. That’s why I was hoping he’d get loose and have a chance to get out and do some things last week.”
Terry and the Gorilla defense will face an SBU team that has scored just 14 points in each of its first two games while throwing for an average of 194 yards per contest.
“They’re a spread team so we’re expecting a lot of passing,” Terry said. “We have to cover well and tacklet well.”
On offense, the Gorillas are still ironing out some early-season wrinkles. After a strong start in the win over UCO, the PSU offense disappeared in the third quarter, netting just 28 yards.
“We’re still a team trying to figure out what we do best and trying to utilize our personnel the best we can,” Beck said.
The Gorillas are 19-0 all time against Southwest Baptist.
“I wasn’t ever aware of that,” Gorilla running back Jason Spradling said. “That doesn’t mean anything to us at all.”