When Tyree Gillespie isn’t playing football, the Ocala, Florida, native does what he likes best: shopping for shoes.
Whether it’s Air Jordan or another brand, the Missouri starting strong safety said he is a fanatic when it comes to his footwear.
The junior has also been a fanatic about wreaking havoc on opposing offenses.
Gillespie has recorded nine solo tackles this season along with five assists. He has posted one sack, three pass breakups and one quarterback hurry, helping the Tigers hold opponents to an average of 231 total yards through their first four games — the third-lowest mark in the nation after Wisconsin and Ohio State.
Gillespie said his top priority is to see the ball and get the ball for the Tigers, who lead all FBS programs with four defensive touchdowns so far this season.
“I have to get my hands on the ball and get more picks,” Gillespie said. “I’m just trying to work hard, go as hard as I can."
Missouri defensive coordinator Ryan Walters said Gillespie seems more comfortable this season.
“In the offseason, Tyree really gets after it and always has,” Walter said. “His maturity, his experience and understanding of our scheme, I think that’s where he has grown the most.”
Gillespie was a safety and tailback at Vanguard High School, touted as a physical and fearless athlete.
That showed in his freshman season at Missouri, when Gillespie developed into a dependable special teams contributor.
Gillespie’s playing time grew last year, as he stepped into a starting role at one of the safety spots against No. 1 Alabama. He started the rest of the season and ended third on the team with 48 tackles.
Gillespie was at his best during the final eight games of 2018, with 42 of his tackles in a starting role. In the Liberty Bowl against Oklahoma State, Gillespie made six tackles. He also had a season-high seven tackles twice, against Vanderbilt on Nov. 10 and Tennessee on Nov. 17. Also in Knoxville, Gillespie had 1 1/2 tackles for loss, including his first career sack.
Gillespie said the Missouri defense as a whole has progressed from last season to this year.
“Our concept on defense is run to the ball and then hit,” Gillespie said. “We try to emphasize that in practice and then we make our production in the games. We just have to continue to work hard and stick together because everything is on our back.”
The Tigers (3-1) are scheduled to play Troy (2-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Faurot Field.
“We just have to stay grounded, work hard and do our job," he said. "If we do that, the sky is the limit. We just need to worry about us and the rest will fall into place.”