St. Louis (Mo.) DeSmet wide receiver Durron Neal is one of the top playmakers in the country. Ranked as the No. 6 receiver and the No. 43 overall prospect he has a rare combination of size and speed that make him a dangerous weapon.
So far throughout his career at DeSmet, opponents have not been able to figure out a way to consistently stop him. He had over 2,220 all-purpose yards and 31 touchdowns as a junior that led the likes of Missouri, Notre Dame, Ohio State and USC among others to offer him scholarships.
In the end the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Neal decided to commit to Oklahoma this past summer. He says it was one of the proudest moments of his life. On Tuesday afternoon he had another moment he says he will also remember for the rest of his life.
Neal became the latest player to be officially invited to play in the 2012 U.S. Army All-American Bowl, featuring 90 of the top prospects in the country. He received the honor during an assembly in front of his classmates and the significance was not lost on him.
"It means a lot," Neal said of being named a U.S. Army All-American. "It's something I've watched pretty closely on TV in recent years. I've seen a lot of my favorite players play there and it's just something that I've always wanted to do. It's a reward for all the hard work and all that you've accomplished over the last three years."
The game annually attracts the top players in the country with many alumni currently playing in the NFL. However, Neal feels that his home state - and his hometown in particular - have not been well-represented over the years. Because of that he feels he has something to prove.
"I'll have a chance to play in front of a lot of people," he said. "Being from St. Louis, you don't really get that much recognition. To be able to play for my home state, that's an honor.
"I remember watching Blaine Gabbert and Sheldon Richardson represent St. Louis down there in the game. Just like them I want to play for the home state. We don't get as much recognition here. We were lucky to have Sheldon and Blaine and I'm just trying to keep that thread alive."
In addition to his fellow Show Me State stars, Neal says he remembers several other standouts from watching the game over the years.
"I remember watching Terrelle Pryor in the game," he said. "He was really good down there. I remember watching DeSean Jackson and a couple of guys like that. There really are all kinds of guys in the NFL that I remember watching in this game. To know that I will play in the same game and the same place they did, that means I have the same opportunity to make it to that next level too."
Neal knows several other players with which he has a connection in one way or another that will also be playing in this year's game.
"I know John Michael McGee is going to be down there. He's going to OU with me. I know Ty Darlington, the other offensive lineman that is going to OU, he's going to be down there too. I know Dorial (Green-Beckham).
"Those are the guys that I've talked with about it. We're all really excited to go down there and play. I've talked to Dorial and he and I really excited about playing with each other. We get to line up together in the game and that's going to be fun going against defenses, both of us in at the same time. We're going to represent the state of Missouri."
Neal and the West team take on the East in the 12th annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Saturday, Jan. 7, 2012 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas. The game will be nationally televised on NBC.