It seemed like an easy decision. On Tuesday afternoon, Jeremy Maclin got the call. A National Football League official told the Missouri sophomore that he was projected as a first-round pick in the NFL draft. It was the call for which Maclin had waited his whole life.
"It was a high when he got that information," said Jeff Parres, whose family took Maclin into their home when he was a troubled St. Louis adolescent. "This is great. I'm gone. I'm going to play in the NFL."
But over the next few days, Maclin kept feeling the pull of coming back to Columbia for his junior season.
"You kind of lean one way or the other. I've been going back and forth," Maclin said. "We've seen a lot together. You got things that you still want to achieve as a team and individually as far as national championship, Big 12 Championship, Heisman, the Biletnikoff Award. All those things. Not very many people can say they won those things and that's something I considered when making the decision."
Maclin said he did not make a final decision until about ten minutes before speaking with the media, in the midst of a meeting with Missouri coaches.
"If he's my son, what am I going to tell my son? I told him you have got to strongly consider going," Pinkel said. "He asked me if I thought he was ready and I said yeah, I do think you're ready. Maybe that's being too honest."
In the end, Maclin agreed with his coach.
"I'm saying right now, I'm entering the 2009 NFL draft," Maclin said. "I feel like I'm ready for the next level and that's what my heart told me to do."
If anyone believed this was not an easy decision, Maclin's demeanor destroyed the notion. He battled back tears multiple times during his six-and-a-half minute address. Eventually, Maclin turned and walked out of the room in mid-sentence, unable to hold back his tears.
"All those guys are like father figures to me. They didn't teach me how to just be a football player. They taught me how to be a man," he said. "I'm leaving a family. This is my family. This is where I belong."
But now, he belongs on an NFL field on Sundays. Pinkel said he discussed with Maclin the importance of getting his college degree, and that Maclin would work toward that when he had time. Over the next few months, he will be focused on preparing for the NFL combine and the April draft. Parres said the family was leaning toward Maclin continuing his training with strength coach Pat Ivey at Missouri, but that would be finalized after Maclin signs with an agent. Either way, Maclin's heart remains at Mizzou.
"I don't know where I'd be without all these guys," he said. "I represent Missouri. I will always be a Tiger."