When you first see Josh McNeil two things stand out: He is big and he has a baby face.
Well, don't let that baby face fool you, because this kid is one tough hombre who knows how to get down and dirty and play the game of football. In fact, twelve written scholarship offers from schools such as Mississippi State, Oklahoma State, LSU, Georgia, Florida, Clemson, Ole Miss, Marshall, Southern Miss, Nebraska, West Virginia and Vanderbilt prove that.
And it's not just the scholarship offers that are impressive, but also the names he rattles off when he tells you who some of the coaches are who have called him during the May evaluation period.
"I've received calls from Coach Croom from Mississippi State, Coach Zook from Florida, Coach Richt from Georgia, Coach Callahan from Nebraska, Les Miles from Oklahoma State, Coach Cutcliffe from Ole Miss, Nick Saban from LSU," said McNeil matter of factly when asked what head coaches had called him.
While these coaches are obviously impressed with McNeil, they have also made an impression on him as well.
Coach Richt - "Coach Richt talked about the opportunities that I would have at Georgia. Their center is going to be leaving in two years. I could redshirt and, possibly, come in as a redshirt freshman and start."
Coach Croom - "Coach Croom played center and knows the position pretty well. He told me, hands down, I was probably the best center in the nation. Pretty much every coach I've talked to have said that. They said they saw film of the best center in the nation last year and have also seen mine and I was just as good or better than he was."
Coach Callahan - "He is a real fiery guy that is very energetic. He coached the offensive line and talked about how he loved my film and how I pancake so many people."
Coach Callahan - "Coach Zook, like Coach Callahan, is a fiery, energetic guy."
Coach Cutcliffe - "Coach Cutcliffe was very straight forward with me. He said they want me to come up there this summer and view their facilities. He plans on touring me through them."
Coach Saban - "I met Coach Saban before when I went down to their spring game. He reiterated the things he said then, things such as their academics and what they are going to be doing with their football program in the future. Since Ben Wilkerson will be graduating this year, I may have the opportunity to start as a true freshman."
You wonder, when head coaches start talking about someone being the best at anything, what makes a person that good? Josh has several ideas why.
"I have pretty good quickness for as big as I am," said McNeil, who can two-hand dunk a basketball. "And I am pretty athletic. The coaches said that I could also play multiple positions because of my foot quickness."
Like his older brother, Chris McNeil, the projected starting center for Mississippi State this coming season, Josh plays center in high school. Will that be a priority for him when he gets to college?
"I want to play wherever I have the best opportunity," said McNeil. "I just want to do whatever helps the team."
With the ability and athleticism that he has, there is a solid chance he could play his true freshman season. Will that play a factor in his college choice?
"I would like to play as a freshman but sometimes players aren't ready because it's a tough transition," said McNeil. "I could use the redshirt year to get stronger and learn the offensive system."
Extremely talented, 12 offers in hand, head coaches calling him; what's left for a youngster like that? College camps, maybe? Normally, yes, but McNeil has thought that through as he does so many other things and has come up with his own idea about the benefit of attending college football camps.
"I might not go to any camps," said McNeil. "I've got more offers than I was anticipating. There would be no point in me going to their camps since they have already offered. Plus, I don't want to go to a camp and take a chance of tearing my knee up before my senior season."
When you think about it, that is really very well thought out. Since camps are probably out, what will he do this summer?
"I'm going to take several unofficial visits to Mississippi State, Florida and Georgia," said McNeil. "I've been to LSU. I will probably go up to Ole Miss. Southern Miss is right down the road, so I might drive down there, too."
Look for more updates this summer and fall on a player who is very likely the top player in Mississippi and also one of the top players nationally.
Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page (http://mississippistate.theinsiders.com), the source for Mississippi State sports on TheInsiders.com sports network. You can contact him by email at email@example.com.