Kirkwood High grad takes heat for choosing Nebraska -

Kirkwood High grad takes heat for choosing Nebraska

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) -- Mike McNeill isn't feeling the love from his home state lately. That's understandable.

McNeill plays tight end for Nebraska. His home state is Missouri. And this is Nebraska-Missouri week.

The other day he opened his Facebook page to find a so-called friend left a message putting his or her sentiments in mathematical terms: "Chase Coffman

Mike McNeill."

Coffman is the Tigers' senior tight end, maybe the best in the Big 12. McNeill, a sophomore from suburban St. Louis, is an up-and-comer who had a career-best game in the loss to Virginia Tech last week.

Even McNeill's relatives dish out zingers.

"They say it'll be the only game of the year that they would hope Nebraska wouldn't win," McNeill said. "They'd root for me, but not for the team."

Folks back home have been ribbing McNeill off and on since he signed his letter of intent with the Cornhuskers in 2006. The only place he could have gone that would have been worse, in Missouri fans' eyes, is to archrival Kansas.

Missouri offered a scholarship, but that was long after he had established a relationship with Nebraska's former staff. If he had joined the Tigers, he could have played with Kirkwood High School classmate, teammate and friend Jeremy Maclin, the All-America receiver.

Kirkwood coach Larry Frost, who played for Mizzou in the 1960s, said he would have loved for McNeill to stay in state with Maclin. But the Tigers weren't in need of a tight end in '06, and they weren't zealous in their recruiting efforts.

"If Missouri would have hit Mike real hard," Frost said, "I think he still might be here in Missouri."

Instead, McNeill became another in a line of defectors to Nebraska. Other Missourians on the Nebraska roster are junior receiver Chris Brooks (St. Louis), sophomore offensive lineman Keith Williams (Florissant), freshman linebacker Will Compton (Bonne Terre) and freshman linebacker Matt Holt (Lee's Summit).

In 118 years of Nebraska football, only 33 Missouri natives have lettered for the Cornhuskers, starting with quarterback Vincent C. Hascoll of St. Louis in 1909. A total of 17 of those letterman have come to Nebraska in the past 20 years.

For many of those years the Tigers have struggled on the gridiron, making Nebraska attractive to Show-Me State prep stars, including defensive ends Grant Wistrom and Mike Rucker, running back Dan Alexander, defensive lineman Steve Warren and tight end Tracey Wistrom.

McNeill and Maclin have known each other since kindergarten. They played youth sports together and took a couple recruiting trips together as high school seniors. Maclin committed to Oklahoma before switching to Missouri. McNeill was never serious about any school other than Nebraska.

The two text each other and talk regularly.

Maclin told McNeill this week that the Huskers had better watch out for Missouri's prolific offense. McNeill said he had no retort.

"I can't really say much when it comes to comparing stats," he said. "I think in one game he put up more yards than I have the whole year. I don't want to get into a stat battle with him."

McNeill has caught six balls for 126 yards, with three of his receptions going for touchdowns. He had a three catches for 66 yards and a TD last week against Virginia Tech.

His numbers are overshadowed by Maclin's 26 catches for 391 yards and four TDs, including 14 for 168 yards against Buffalo two weeks ago.

"I would have liked to have seen them both go to Missouri so I could see them both each weekend," said Frost, the Kirkwood High coach. "I'm just happy they both got good places to go and that they have good coaching staffs both places. They're very fortunate."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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