April 1, 2011

Midwest WR grew up a Tide fan

The University of Alabama has made speed a priority for its 2012 class, and Missouri wide receiver Durron Neal fits the bill.

Neal, a 6-foot-1, 193-pound wide out from St. Louis, has drawn comparisons to former University of Missouri wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, for his speed and ability to make people miss.

"A lot of people compare me to Jeremy Maclin or Percy Harvin, basically smaller guys who are shifty and can do a lot of things when they get the ball in their hands," Neal said. "My game is simple, make one move and go to the end zone."

On Thursday, Oklahoma extended a scholarship to Neal, giving him 19 offers.

However, Neal didn't grow up a Sooner fan or even a Missouri fan. He grew up an Alabama fan, despite being raised in the Midwest.

"My step dad is from Alabama and when he came here, that's all he would talk about," Neal said. "He grew up in Birmingham, and I grew up liking them just from what he would tell me.

"He used to tell me about all of the fans, how everybody would shut the town down to go to Alabama and just how crazy it is. I guess I just want to see it for myself."

So when Neal received an offer from UA football coach Nick Saban, his ears perked up.

"It was a real honor to talk with Coach Saban," Neal said. "He's one of my favorite coaches. I like how he makes practice like it's a game. He pushes everybody. He gets on you if you mess up. He gets on you even if you do good because he just wants you to be better."

Even though he's listed as a wide receiver, Neal has the ability to play on both sides of the ball and even help out on special teams. That versatility made an impression on the Crimson Tide head coach.

"(Saban) told me he liked what I did on film and how I can play so many positions," Neal said. "He really likes me as a defensive player just because he coaches cornerbacks, but he likes me on the offensive side, too.

"He likes that I'm very versatile. That's a good thing when a guy can be successful at any position you put him in."

As a junior at DeSmet High School, Neal played seven different positions. He racked up 2,248 all-purpose yards and 31 touchdowns. If it were up to him, he would stay on the offensive side of the ball, but he's open to anything.

"I would prefer to play offense," Neal said. "I like to get the ball. I like to make people miss. I also love special teams. Even though I can be scared, I love it. When I get the ball in my hands, it's real good."

Neal has tentative plans to visit Tuscaloosa this summer when his step dad goes back to Birmingham. The main thing Neal is looking for on the trip is to see if he feels at home at UA.

"I'm looking for where I can fit in and help and somewhere that feels like home," Neal said.

"Location's not a big factor. Being away from home is a good thing because it makes you grow up and be a man and make your own decisions. Mom and dad are not going to be there to make the decisions for you, so it's time for you to be a man."

Neal was selected to compete in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl last month.

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