It came down to a battle between Shawnbrey McNeal and Emmanuel Sanders for offensive player of the year, but McNeal's emergence on this year's team ultimately gave him the edge.
A week before the Mustangs' first game this season, SMU was not sure if they would have the new transer's services during the year. A hardship waiver was still pending with the NCAA.
Ultimately, McNeal's waiver was cleared and the Miami-transfer suited up for the first game of the year against Stephen F. Austin. It was then, the coaching staff and fans truly realized how big of an impact that the junior could be this season.
In his first game, the Dallas Madison product carried the ball 19 times for 158 yards and a score. He followed it up with another great performance and a score against UAB. His success immediately drew the praises of his coaches and teammates.
“I'm glad that I'm not going against him,” said linebacker Chase Kennemer. “It makes a teams honor the run a lot more. If you get him against just one guy in open space, he is going to make them miss. As a defense, he gets us excited because it gets the chains moving. I'm glad that he is on our side.”
McNeal on the season went over 95 yards rushing four times (SFA, Navy, UTEP, Tulane), ending the year with 1,125 yards and nine touchdowns. Compared to 2008, when SMU rushers only collected 497 yards on the ground.
“I really can't speak for all my teammates. I wasn't here through all the trials and tribulations. I wasn't here when they were at rock bottom. But it's a great feeling to help these great group of guys,” stated McNeal to PonyStampede.com.
PonyStampede.com will be announcing our defensive player of the year in the next couple of days.