January 9, 2009

Sadness, but no regrets for Maclin

Friday wasn't supposed to be a sad day. Well, maybe for Gary Pinkel and Andy Hill, who will no longer get to coach Jeremy Maclin. Maybe for Missouri fans, who will never again watch the most electrifying player in the history of the program grace Faurot Field. But it wasn't supposed to be a sad day for Maclin himself.

And yet, as I sat and watched Maclin talk to reporters about his decision to enter the 2009 NFL Draft, you'd have to have been blind to ignore the sadness that was there.

Maclin broke down in tears twice. He struggled to keep his emotions in check as he addressed the media with red-rimmed eyes.

"I have no regrets. This has been the best experience of my life," Maclin said. "This is my family."

One reporter asked Maclin if he had talked with any of his former teammates who now play on Sundays.

"I had a conversation with..." he started to answer.

That's as far as Maclin got. He turned from the podium, hugged his coach and walked out the door of the Onofrio meeting room. As he left, he shut the door on one of the most memorable careers in Missouri football history.

Ultimately, Maclin was not sad. He said again and again that he knew he was making the right choice. During a meeting with the coaches on Friday morning, Pinkel and Hill stressed to Maclin that next year's Missouri team would look different. The national championship is probably not a realistic goal. Every defensive coordinator would give No. 9 even more attention than they'd given him during his all-American sophomore season. Injuries, as Maclin knows all too well, are a factor.

And despite all that, Maclin strongly considered staying a college student. I asked Jeff Parres, the surrogate father who took Maclin in during his adolescent years and coached him as a budding football star, if it was fair to say that Jeremy wanted to stay, but he had to leave.

"I think that's a good way to put it," Parres said.

And yet, as much as Maclin did for Mizzou, he insists it may have done more for him.

"I don't know where I'd be without all these guys," he said through tears.

The feeling is mutual. The pleasure was all ours.

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!