R.C. Slocum knew what Reggie McNeal was capable of doing on the gridiron long before McNeal led Lufkin to a state championship as a senior in 2001.
The former Texas A&M coach saw McNeal’s competitive nature up close at Aggie football camps over the summer.
So when McNeal rushed for 159 yards and threw for 223 to rally Lufkin from a 21-3 deficit to beat Austin Westlake 38-24 for the state title, Slocum was impressed but not surprised.
“The state championship game he was hurt,” Slocum said. “He got hurt in another game. He just willed it. He won that game. He was playing one-legged and still won the game through his leadership and just making key plays. We knew how good he was.”
McNeal finished his high school career with 5,935 yards passing and 64 touchdowns to a 33-8 mark as a three-year starter.
He was named the Offensive Player of the Year and all-American by SuperPrep, which ranked him as the No. 3 quarterback recruit in the nation.
With all the numbers and accolades he racked up during his high school career, many A&M fans wanted McNeal to start his first game as an Aggie.
But Slocum wanted to make sure he was ready.
“At quarterback there’s always quite a bit to learn,” Slocum said. “He did a great job, really. A lot of times I’ve seen young guys that can get scarred if they’re thrown out there too soon before they’re ready. I wanted to make sure that he was ready to go out there and do it.”
And on one of the biggest stages in Texas A&M program history, McNeal was more than ready.
McNeal replaced starter Dustin Long on the final possession of the first quarter and threw for 191 yards and four touchdowns in the Aggies’ 30-26 victory in College Station.
“That upset was really amazing for him to lead as a freshman,” Slocum said.
McNeal went on to finish atop A&M’s career list for passing yards (6,992) and total offense (8,876).
He was chosen by Cincinnati in the 2006 NFL Draft and spent parts of seven seasons in the NFL and CFL.
While Slocum only coached McNeal his freshman season in 2002, the former coach is elated for his former player to be inducted into the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame.
“It makes me very proud of Reggie,” Slocum said. “I’m happy that he’s getting this recognition. He certainly was a good high school player. He won a state championship. He provided great leadership. The year I had him there at A&M he came in and had one of the biggest wins as a true freshman. I have great admiration for Reggie McNeal.”