Ever wondered what a Mizzou team that was comprised of only Missouri kids would look like? Or wonder how good an only-Texan Mizzou squad would do? Well, you’re in luck! This offseason, the Rock M Masthead is assembling the best team of Mizzou players by state that they graduated high school from. We compiled a list of the significant starters on every team from the year 2000 on and voted on the best players at their position group in order to create three “All-State” Mizzou squads: Team Missouri, Team Texas, and Team USA. Over the next nine weeks you’ll read about these Mizzou Greats that hailed from the respective regions and, hopefully, come away impressed with just how good these fictional teams could actually be.
This week the series moves to wide receiver, the position with the highest average star rating of the past twenty years.
I remember the first time I saw Jeremy Maclin in action: September 1st, 2007 in the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis. Before the 2006 season there were rumors that the crown jewel of the ‘06 recruiting class - who signed with the Tigers over Oklahoma - was playing so well as to probably crack the starting receiving rotation, but had hurt his knee in summer 7-on-7 drills and would miss the season. I had forgotten about Maclin, for the most part, until his name started coming up again in fall camp of ‘07. Then, in the Arch Rivalry game against a surprisingly good Illini squad, J-Mac blew past his defender, floated in between the covering safeties, and hauled in a high throw on his back shoulder while absorbing a blow and bouncing into the end zone.
It felt like Mizzou had unlocked a cheat code.
From then on J-Mac continued to shred any defender lined up opposite him: he set the then-record for most all-purpose yardage for a freshman with 2,776 yards, which was the 5th-most by any player in D-I college football history. He broke Mizzou’s cold streak of 287 games without a kick return touchdown when he housed a kick against Kansas State for 99-yards, an NCAA freshman record. That same game he set the school record with 360 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns, going on to be the only player in the 2007 season to have a touchdown on the ground, through the air, and by punt return and kick return. He became Missouri’s first freshman to earn unanimous All-American honors, and legitimized an already potent Missouri offense by adding an absolute dynamo who could play out of any receiver position and was a threat to return any kick for a touchdown.
I grew up with Justin Gage bodying corners and safeties for his catches and fighting through triple coverage, and thought that was the most dominant receiver performance I’d ever see from the black and gold. But J-Mac ran past you or around you and broke defenses with his ability to turn any play into “the touchdown play”.
Oh, and that breakout 2007 season? He turned around and did it again in 2008: 1,260 receiving yards, 1,280 returning yards, 293 rushing yards, 17 total touchdowns, and another All-American season.
The fact that he was hesitant to declare early for the NFL Draft tells you a lot about how much he cared about the team and this school. The story goes that Sean Weatherspoon, J-Mac’s roommate, was lobbying hard for him to come back and play for the ‘09 squad. Maclin went to Gary Pinkel to chat about it and Pinkel had to talk him into leaving because he had proven everything he could at this level and needed to go and play professionally; J-Mac would go on to be a 1st Round pick - 19th overall - to the Philadelphia Eagles.
We’ve highlighted Pinkel’s recruiting plan many times on this website— grab the overlooked athletic kids from Texas and the surrounding areas, get a bunch of farmer kids from the middle of Missouri to play offensive line, and sprinkle in the best skill position guys from the state. J-Mac wasn’t the first local blue-chipper to play for Pinkel, but he was the first to make the type of impact you’d expect from such a talent.
He not only returned the investment on those expectation, he took them all the way to the house.