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December 23, 2001I went to the game with my dad, my brother and Hop as we watched this classic from the sidelines. First person we saw as we entered onto the field was Reggie's dad who said to us "I have been looking for y'all, I was wondering when you would get here". As always Reggie's dad was pumped up for the game and was happy to report that they only had one minor injury going into the game.
As for the game, Reggie's injury was the top of his ankle and it was very painfull to him. He would come off and grimace as he tried to walk it off. Of course there was no keeping him off the field, he was going to play no matter what. The injury was causing him to overthrow at first then he had to make the adjustments. What was amazing was that first series after getting re-taped on the sidelines he goes off on a couple of nice runs.
Things you have to like about Reggie are numerous let's hit on some.
- feeling the pressure, either you can do this or you cannot and Reggie definately can. He is able to step up and out of it most times and escape from the tacklers and head to daylight. This is something that Bucky Richardson was a master of.
- doing your progressions- Reggie would not stick to his first receiver, he would look for the 2nd and then the 3rd receiver and strike. If they were not there he would try to run the ball. If you zero in on a receiver then that gives the db's plenty of time to adjust to the routes.
- avoiding tacklers- he did this over and over again, the Westlake All-State linebacker had a bear of a time hanging on to him. Also I can't remember a Westlake player getting a clean shot on him. He also broke tackles on a consistent basis
- cool under pressure- it just does not get to him. Every game in the playoffs this year they have been behind except for Dallas Carter. Reggie picks his team up and leads them to the win time after time. If a teammate drops the ball he does not yell at them or get in their face he talks to them. This is call leadership, the team knows that 21-3 in the championship game is no problem because Reggie will bring them back. They have confidence in him and thus they gain confidence in themselves. You can't measure that.
- He will not hurt the team- if he gets pressured and is about to get sacked he will usually eat the ball or throw it away. He simply does not throw interceptions. He made one mistake in the game and that was the early pass where he just threw it up, other than that he had one bad pass. Reggie has been consistent in this category, he will take a loss rather than chance throwing an interception 99 out of a 100 times.
- Making the big plays- seriously did anyone have one ounce of doubt that Reggie was going to come up with something big on those last two drives? Even with his ankle hurt, even with the dome packed with high school fans and on statewide television? The game is on the line Reggie makes the plays that win games, this is another Bucky trait.
- arm strength- even though he has a hitch in his throw he still completed a pass that was 55 yards in the air. Plus if you watch him throw it he just flicked the pass, it was all arm no body.
humility- while others are out there bragging on how good they are and seeing how much attention they can get for themselves Reggie gives credit to his teammates. In the interviews after the game he gave all the credit to his teammates, that is what a leader does.
Other notes: Reggie's dad said something to make Aggie fans happy. He said he can't wait till Reggie gets to A&M and can throw to those receivers there. Reggie's teammates were good but his receivers at College Station will be a significant upgrade. Imagine him throwing to Tydrick Riley or hopefully Eric Winston or Jammar Taylor or Terrence Murphy, etc...
As always we enjoyed being on the Lufkin sidelines and high-fiving all of those we got to know on the Championship run, most of all Reggie's dad. Mr. McNeal it has been a pleasure to roam the sidelines with you from the Dallas Carter game to the Killeen game, to the games at the dome.
Congratulations to Reggie "Real Deal" McNeal, his parents and all of the Lufkin Panthers and their famalies for being the 2001 CLASS 5A STATE CHAMPIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!