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January 6, 2012SAN ANTONIO -- For a guy always joking around and having fun with his teammates it's hard to realize how much weighs on the mind of St. Louis (Mo.) DeSmet wide receiver Durron Neal.
The 6-foot, 190-pound prospect came to the Army All-American game with big hopes of building his recruiting ranking but more importantly the Sooner commit came to the Alamo to represent his home city of St. Louis.
However, prior to landing in San Antonio Neal was forced to fight off the nerves of flying for the first time.
"It feels really good doing it. Seeing some of the guys I already know, I'm not a big airplane type of person so I was a little nervous but when I touched down I got a feel for this wonderful place we are in," said Neal, who committed to the Sooners on June 6.
"I think that's what it was, I'm afraid of heights, so getting on planes is not one of my - I know it's something I have to get used to but I was actually pretty nervous and a litte scared."
The Army All-American experience also offers a unique opportunity for players like Neal to spend time with future teammates.
For the Show Me State product that opportunity comes even more special as he is joined by four other Sooner commits for this week festivities as well as practicing on the same field that was home to Sooner quarterback commit Trevor Knight.
"That's what I heard, we are going to be playing on his field and I'm just real excited to meet him and that would be a real good thing."
"Actually, Trevor texted me the night that OU was playing. I was obviously on a date, but he was talking to me and he was giving me updates on the game and then I got home and looked at it and I know he is supposed to report soon. I thought it was supposed to be here in January - me and him been talking a lot too," said Neal.
Surely during that time with the future Sooners talk of what's to come upon arrival to Norman will be discussed.
An idea that Neal admits has already started filling his mind with the departure of senior All-American Ryan Broyles which could lead to early playing time for the nation's No. 8 ranked player.
"Talking to coach Jay Norvell and coach Josh Heupel, it's a real big thing now they are saying the opportunity is there, now it's your time to come in and just how hard are you willing to work to come in and make an impact early? They are expecting me to come in early and do some real big things. You know, obviously filling in for Ryan, an All-American."
And while spending time with his future teammates is important to Neal the chance to represent his home city of St. Louis in front of a national television audience means that much more.
"Just letting them know that St. Louis is in my heart. I just want to - we're always known for crime and we're always trying to bring a positive perspective. Having a player like Jeremy Maclin and he is bringing positive things to the community and drafting guys like Sam Bradford and bringing in Danario Alexander.
Trying to bring in that positve side instead of it always being the negative and try and put (Missouri) high school football on the map," said Neal.
"You know there is some good talent out there, not listening to what police reports say and there are some good guys that are capable of making an impact on the next level. I know it's a bad city but if you go deep in the city there are also some good guys like myself."
"I'm just trying to come out and show them a bit of Midwest football. I know the talk is Texas, California, we've (state of Missouri) got three guys here though so it's a real good thing."
A display of character by Neal that will surely be welcomed to Norman by his future head coach Bob Stoops following a fall in which the head ball coach was forced to put his footdown and re-evaluate his program prior to the Sooners Insight Bowl appearance.
"Just really just let the OU fans see that I feel like I'm a steal because a lot of people have passed up on me, have doubted me - and obviously Rivals keeps dropping me. They are getting a real hardworking player and it's going to be family, just all about family and love and having fun and representing St. Louis and Oklahoma to the best of my ability."
A quest for respect that has started out on the right foot for Neal.