FORT COLLINS | Back home in Georgia, Michael Gallup finds a way to fish nearly every day.
In Fort Collins, there’s just no time for the Colorado State senior receiver to cast a line into the local streams. He’s way too busy reeling in big catches on the field.
Gallup leads the nation with 1,298 yards receiving. Even hearing that out loud — nation’s leading receiver —is hard for him to fully fathom.
After all, it’s been quite a journey: Adopted as an infant and welcomed into a family that includes eight kids. The junior college route out of high school because of qualifying issues. Catching on at Colorado State and rising to national prominence. On the horizon, potentially hearing his name called on draft day as a projected high- to mid-round NFL pick.
“Pretty awesome. I’m trying to make the most of it,” said the 21-year-old Gallup, whose Rams (6-5, 4-3 Mountain West) attempt to break a three-game skid Saturday against San Jose State on senior day. “I always try to be the underdog.”
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound receiver has turned in quite a career for the Rams, with 12 100-yard performances in 24 career games.
This year, he’s taken his game to another level. He has a pair of 200-yard performances this season, including a 263-yard game against Nevada. He and quarterback Nick Stevens just seem to be on the same page with a rather basic strategy.
“Mostly, it’s go straight down the field, and he either throws it over the top so I can win the ball or he throws it back shoulder if I’m not beating the guy,” said Gallup, who was recently named a semifinalist for the Biletnikoff Award , which goes to the nation’s top wideout. “Pretty simple stuff.”
His path to Colorado State was anything but simple. He was given up for adoption soon after he was born because his mom, “wanted me to have a better life,” he said. Gallup said he’s received letters from his birth mom but has never met her.
“That would be amazing to find her, talk to her,” he said.
First question? “I don’t even know,” he said. “I have way too many.”
Gallup grew up as the youngest of five boys and three girls, of whom six were adopted. He remains extremely tight with his family.
“The nice thing about growing up with that many is you never get bored,” said Gallup, who’s from Monroe, Georgia. “I can tell you that. There’s something to do. There’s always someone who wants to do something with you, take you somewhere.”
Football took him to Butler County Community College in El Dorado, Kansas, where he played two seasons. He was limited in 2015 because of an ankle injury.
Still, he did enough to draw interest from schools such as Kansas State, New Mexico, UNLV and Colorado State. On his recruiting trip to Fort Collins, he ran into fellow receiver/recruit Detrich Clark, who sold Gallup on what the tandem could do.
“The whole trip he was like, ‘We could blow up here,'” Gallup said.
That’s why one of Gallup’s most memorable receptions will always be a 6-yard TD that Clark threw to him on a trick play last season against San Diego State.
“Now that’s pretty cool,” Gallup said.
Gallup is the latest standout receiver to land in Fort Collins. Before him, it was Rashard “Hollywood” Higgins, who was taken by the Cleveland Browns in the fifth round in 2016. Higgins and Gallup communicate quite a bit.
“Every now and then, he tells me, ‘Go for two touchdowns,’ or ‘Go for this amount of yards,'” said Gallup, whose plan after his playing days is to be a firefighter.
“It’s pretty awesome to have someone who’s been in my shoes, set the standard here, gets to play in the league, and is now trying to help me.”
He also has a longtime fan in coach Mike Bobo, who’s known about the electric receiver since Gallup’s high school days and back when Bobo was the offensive coordinator at Georgia.
“There are a lot of good schemes out there, but it’s about the players and getting the right players that can change a game for you,” Bobo said. “You see what Michael can do.”
Most of the 2018 NFL mock drafts are projecting Gallup anywhere from a high pick to a fifth-rounder. Should he slip, it’s all right.
“That’s why I call myself the underdog,” Gallup said.