September 14, 2008

Muckelroy waited his turn, now making most of it


Adrian Peterson helped Roddrick Muckelroy become a Division I college prospect.

Actually, Muckelroy putting Peterson repeatedly on the turf in a first-round playoff game between Hallsville and Palestine in 2004 helped make Muckelroy a prospect. Texas wasn't the only one who noticed Muckelroy that night.

How could you not? He had 21 tackles and the game-winning touchdown in a 20-19 victory over Peterson's team in Tyler.

"I think that's when most everyone started looking at me," Muckelroy said. "I'm thankful for that game."

Most everyone included Texas A&M, Arkansas and LSU. But once Texas' Duane Akina kept showing up for Muckelroy's basketball games and calling every week, Muckelroy decided to cancel his other visits and commit to the Longhorns. He didn't want to go too far from home.

"I wasn't going to UCLA or Florida or any of those faraway places, that's for sure," he said.

A COUNTRY BOY

Muckelroy's father, Donnie, is a bus driver in the Hallsville Independent School District. His mother, Thelma, is a special education teacher. Any free weekend he gets, Muckelroy drives home to East Texas to eat his mother's fried catfish.

"I love going home," Muckelroy said. "I'm country. I admit it. I love Hallsville. I loved growing up in the country. I still check in on my high school team. I will text message one of my old teachers for a score on Friday nights."

Being a homebody is just one of many things his teammates make fun of him for. They also say his voice is high-pitched, his stomach is pudgy and his drawl is too thick.

You'll definitely find him somewhere other than the fast lane.

But even though Muckelroy may move a little slower off the field than some of his big-city teammates, he has been moving at warp speed on it.

He has a team-leading 20 tackles, including a game-high 14 in UT's victory at UTEP. Muckelroy, who is known as "Muck" to his teammates, also scooped up a fumble caused by Sam Acho and ran 26 yards for a touchdown against the Miners.

"Coach (Will) Muschamp told me, 'If you didn't score, you weren't getting back on the bus,'" Muckelroy said.

DELAYED BREAKOUT

Muckelroy's breakout at Texas was delayed by a serious hand injury three games into the 2006 season as a redshirt freshman that resulted in sliced tendons and a 5-inch, zig-zag scar on the palm of his right hand.

"There was a discussion about me trying to play with that injury for about five minutes," Muckelroy said. "Then the doctors said, 'If you don't get it fixed now, they could end up cutting (my middle finger) off.' That pretty much stopped everything with me and my momma. I want all my fingers. I didn't want to be nine-finger Muck."

Muckelroy is no stranger to playing with pain, though. Two games into his senior season at Hallsville, he sprained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee but played the rest of the season anyway.

"I probably should have shut it down," Muckelroy said. "But I didn't want to let my team down. That was some serious pain."

It's also taken a while for Muckelroy to break out because he didn't start a single regular-season game last year at weak side linebacker behind Scott Derry. Muckelroy's only start came in a Holiday Bowl victory over Arizona State. All he did in that game was post two tackles behind the line, including a sack, and force a fumble.

Muckelroy doesn't complain about having had to wait his turn, however, along with his friends and fellow junior linebackers Sergio Kindle and Jared Norton.

"You can't worry about the past," he said. "You have to live in the present."

It's that kind of attitude that makes his coaches appreciate him.

"He's instinctive and he's tough, and football is important to him," Muschamp said. "He's one of those guys who plays the game the way you're supposed to all the time. We need more like him."

And no matter what his teammates find to make fun of (and they always seem to find something), they love lining up with Muckelroy.

"In the huddle, he's so antsy, he's like a rat - all fidgety," said senior defensive end Brian Orakpo. "Then he just makes play after play, and everyone feeds off that."


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