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Rockford College senior has vast repertoire

Thursday, November 05, 2009  
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By Jay Taft
Posted Nov 05, 2009 @ 07:26 PM
Last update Nov 06, 2009 @ 12:56 AM

ROCKFORD — Kenny McNeal has started at offensive guard. He started at tight end, then shifted over to wingback. He then became the Rockford College starting quarterback for two weeks, but a broken right thumb foiled that plan. This week, he’ll move back to wingback, and will continue to run a few plays here or there as the Regents’ fullback.

“Obviously it’s been tough on all of us. A lot of the guys are just plain mad,” said McNeal, a 5-foot-9, 215-pound bruiser. “We just want to win, and most of us are doing everything we possibly can to make that happen.”

McNeal sure is. He’s started in four different positions and has played five, filling in when injuries made it necessary, and taking over to kick-start the offense at times. And each time, he never took a play off, according to his coach.

“First off, if he doesn’t move up to guard for us for that first game, and do it without hesitation and without question, I don’t know what the heck we’re going to do. That’s Week 1,” fourth-year head coach Randy Schrader said. “He’s done it every week; he just goes where the team needs him, and goes all out. He’s done it ever since he arrived.”

Schrader was hired in August of 2006, just a couple of weeks before the season began.

McNeal — who has also played free safety and is still on special teams for the Regents — was one of the nine recruits that stayed  for that season, and he’s the only one that’s made it all the way through the system.

“It’s just not in me to quit — anything,” McNeal said. “I stick it out. When I start something, I finish it.”

In eight days, his college football career will be finished. He’s hoping to get a win before it’s all over. He’s tasted winning before, going 7-3 in each of his first two seasons, before earning two wins last year and none  yet in 2009.

However Saturday’s game pits the Northern Athletics Conference’s two winless teams, Rockford at Maranatha. The Regents have won all three meetings against this weekend’s hosts in Schrader’s tenure. But they’ve never headed in with such horrendous numbers.

“We’re both kind of in the same situation; not playing well at all. Their kids are going to play hard for 60 minutes, I can tell you that,” Schrader said. “And I’m not saying our guys don’t play hard. They have every game. But we’ve had a ton of injuries, the flu ripping through. It’s been tough all the way around.”

Despite a badly pulled groin and, later, a broken thumb, McNeal hasn’t missed a game. He can’t grip the ball to throw it, so his quarterbacking skills are reduced to the option. But with 1,233 yards rushing over his career, that’s been his strong suit.

That, and showing the younger players how to handle themselves, whether it be in a winning or losing environment.

“He’s like a big brother to all of us. He’s been a great teacher, and a good role model, right there next to us the whole way,” Jeremiah Montgomery, a junior defensive back, said. “Kenny is all about sacrificing for the team. He’s like: ‘I’ll play anywhere, I don’t care coach. Whatever you need.’ It rubs off on all of us.

“Right now, we just want to get a win for Kenny.”


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