Whenever I interview a high school head coach my concern is always the same, that the head coach will simply "talk-up" his player. After speaking with head coach Doug Illing from Davie County High School, that is the furthest thing from my mind. He is a straight-shooter, and had plenty of intriguing comments about Raeshon McNeil.
"Raeshon is an exceptional athlete," coach Illing said confidently. "And he is an even better person.
"We are lucky to have him here."
I asked coach Illing to forget for a moment that McNeil was headed to Notre Dame to play cornerback, and just give me his honest opinion about which position would be best for McNeil at the college level in general?
"Definitely at cornerback," coach Illing said without hesitation. "Raeshon has the most confidence there. He has the vision; he really breaks on the ball well."
What about making an immediate impact at Notre Dame and handling all the pressure that comes with playing for the Irish?
"Oh, I think I can. Raeshon played for us as a freshman. He wasn't real sure about himself at first, but I looked him in the eye and told him ‘if I didn't think you could play varsity you wouldn't be here. You would be playing junior varsity.' He never looked back.
"I don't think anyone could be in a better situation than Raeshon, and it couldn't happen to a better person."
There is always the question of legitmate size with cornerbacks. Coach Illing put that to rest with McNeil.
"He is a legit 6-0, pushing 6-1," coach Illing said. "That's why so many college programs were really interested in him."
Both coach Illing and myself feel that Raeshon has a great deal of maturity for his age, but the following comments by coach Illing says it all.
"Stanford, Southern California, Miami, those schools tried to get in with him, but he knew which schools had the architecture major he wanted. Raeshon really knew what he wanted. How many high schools kids know for sure what they are going to major in like that?"
Coach Illing also has the utmost respect for Notre Dame defensive back coach Bill Lewis for what he has accomplished during his career. It is always good to hear that high school head coaches like members of the Notre Dame coaching staff.
All in all, coach Illing feels that McNeil will be a great addition to the Notre Dame program.
Coach Illing deserves a lot of credit for taking time to speak to me about McNeil. He is one of the good guys and I look forward to speaking to him again in the future about McNeil's senior football season.