|REGISTER TO WIN|
COLUMBIA | Prior to his senior year at Kirkwood High School in suburban St. Louis, Jeremy Maclin broke the heart of Missouri football.
He was a black dahlia, rare and homegrown, and yet he had pledged to wear the crimson and cream of the Oklahoma Sooners. Then it happened. Maclin broke his word to Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops. Reopened his recruitment and chose the hand of Mizzou, the girl he had once left behind.
“I went to Oklahoma and I liked the place,” Maclin said. “But there was pressure there. They didn’t tell me this, but I felt like it was one of those ‘Commit now or your scholarship’s not going to be here anymore.’ ”
Maclin had given his word. But he felt backed into a corner, suddenly panicked that one of the most important decisions of his athletic life was being made for him.
And so, on Saturday when No. 6 Oklahoma and No. 11 Missouri meet at 5:30 p.m. in Norman, Okla., it will be Maclin the Tiger trying to add to his totals as college football’s all-purpose yardage leader (214 yards a game rushing, receiving and returning kicks).
The reception Maclin anticipates receiving will be an early frost, a sure sign of a season already presaged.
“I’m not much on talking about guys that aren’t playing for me,” Stoops said on Monday. “I only talk about guys that are here.”
Maclin said he understood the message, that there would be no smiles and hellos.
“I don’t expect there to be,” said Maclin, a redshirt sophomore. “We’re competing against each other.
“I have a great deal of respect for Bob Stoops. He’s a great coach and I wish his team the best.”
Maclin said he did not jilt Oklahoma with the immediate intent of resuming his affair with Mizzou.
“I didn’t commit to Missouri the next day,” Maclin said. “I decommitted to Oklahoma in October and I didn’t commit to Missouri until December.”
The why of departure you already have heard. The how of the hello is defended by both Maclin and MU coach Gary Pinkel.
“I started looking at other places,” Maclin said, ticking off Texas Tech, Illinois, Ohio State and Colorado. “I came up here to watch games. The more I came up here, the more I liked it. I was talking to players in the locker room. Still talking to coach (Cornell) Ford, coach (Andy) Hill, coach (David) Yost and coach Pinkel.”
Was Oklahoma aware?
“Probably not,” Maclin said. “But it wasn’t like I was going behind their back trying to do that. I was going about football. I’ve got the right.”
That assessment probably doesn’t wash in Oklahoma.
But Pinkel contends he has not heard, and likely will not hear, the accusation that Missouri stole a player from the Sooners. Had Maclin or his mother told them to go away, the MU coaches likely would have taken no for an answer.
But Maclin made sure the MU staff knew that his acceptance of an Oklahoma engagement might not lead to marriage.
“If a player is committed somewhere but he still accepts recruiting, where he wants you to call him, wants to talk with you, he might want to come to a game, then we’ll recruit him,” Pinkel said.
That scholarship offer Maclin had accepted from Oklahoma?
“It’s probably more of a reservation than a commitment,” Pinkel said. “You’ve got your scholarship there. But you’re still looking elsewhere.
“Obviously, they’re not fully committed. That’s recruiting, just the way it is now.”