Gophers Clay Geary on first TD: ‘Made the 7 years all the more worth it’

Gophers wide receiver and 7th year senior Clay Geary celebrated after his first career touchdown in Saturday's 49-7 win over Colorado.(University of Minnesota Athletics)

Clay Geary wasn’t going to let a knee injury in 2021 mark the end of his college football career at the University of Minnesota.

The former Lakeville South football standout already has degrees in finance, marketing and entrepreneurial management. He’s in graduate school, and is now in his seventh season with PJ Fleck and the Gophers. In Saturday’s 49-7 win over Colorado, he caught his first career touchdown pass.

On an 8-yard throw from Tanner Morgan with 3:46 left in the third quarter, Geary made a leaping catch in the corner of the end zone and was able to get not one, but both feet in-bounds. It would’ve been good by NFL standards, and it gave Minnesota a 42-0 lead.

"Made seven years all the more worth it. It’s what I’ve been preparing for ever since I got here as a freshman, and to see that finally come to fruition, it just felt good to get that off my shoulders," Geary said.

The veteran receiver and special teams expert might get more run in the offense, with top receiver Chris Autman-Bell now out for the rest of the 2022 season. It hasn’t been an easy road for Geary. He played in one game as a freshman in 2017, then saw action in 18 games the next two seasons mostly on special teams.

Geary made five catches for 50 yards in 2020, then sat out all of 2021 due to injury. He never second guessed returning for a seventh season.

"It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up, knowing that I couldn’t imagine allowing an injury to dictate how I left my mark on this field. When Coach Fleck gave me the opportunity to come back, I wasn’t going to say no to it," Geary said. "I’m an incredibly determined person, I wasn’t going to allow something like that ruin everything I’ve worked for."

Geary made three catches for 65 yards against Western Illinois two weeks ago, and made the most of his only catch against the Buffaloes. He was ready when his number was called, and his teammates mobbed him in celebration.

"We’ve practiced that play, I was ready for the moment. Literally any guy in the receiver room could’ve went out there and run that route and made the play, I was just fortunate it was just me," Geary said. "I was ecstatic, I couldn’t stop smiling. That was pretty cool."

It was one of three touchdown passes for Tanner Morgan on the day.

"Talk about a guy with a lot of grit, that’s Clay Geary. Everything he’s been through the last year, just fighting to have opportunities to get on the field, to be able to pitch him a tuddy was pretty special for me. Super proud of him," Morgan said.

GOPHERS DEFENSE TAKES DOMINANT START TO MICHIGAN STATE

After three home games to start the 2022 season, the Gophers hit the road to open the Big Ten season at Michigan State. Through three games, Minnesota has out-scored its opponents by a combined 149-17. The Gophers’ starting defense has allowed just three points.

The Gophers take the No. 2 total defense (170.3 yards per game), No. 4 passing defense, No. 9 rushing defense and No. 4 scoring defense to East Lansing. After beating Colorado, linebacker Mariano Sori-Marin called the three points the starters gave up to Western Illinois two weeks ago, "unacceptable."

"Even if there is points or not, we still look at the bad plays no matter how many points is up there," safety Jordan Howden said. "There’s always something to get better at, that’s how we look at it, no matter what the score is."

For nose tackle Trill Carter, it’s about an attitude and mentality across the entire defense.

"Everything we do is about our mindset and that’s how we go into every game. Our mindset is the strongest," Carter said.