Marlin is a speck of a town in east central Texas roughly 30 miles southeast of Waco.
People don’t end up in Marlin, where the population dipped below 6,000 at the 2010 census, by accident.
As former Missouri defensive coordinator Dave Steckel said, “You’ve got to be going there to get there.”
Steckel, who is now Missouri State’s head coach, unearthed a gem in Marlin during a visit in the fall of 2005. He was there to watch quarterback Jeremy Sanders, who’d eventually sign with Baylor, but instead found wide receiver, Danario Alexander.
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Rivals didn’t even spell Alexander’s name correctly on his recruiting profile — it was spelled “Denario” — and he was only rated as a two-star prospect, but he became a first-team All-American as a senior after setting Tigers single-season records with 113 catches for 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Alexander returned to Memorial Stadium on Friday among six inductees into the Missouri’s Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame during a ceremony at the Columns Club.
“My first day I stepped on campus, I saw the All-American wall and all-conference players and I immediately put myself in that place,” said Alexander, who battled through two ACL tears in his left knee during his Tigers career. “That’s a goal that I set.”
Alexander’s new goal involves a career in medicine.
More familiar than he’d like to be with the patient side after also tearing his left ACL at the 2010 Senior Bowl and tearing his right ACL in training camp with the Chargers in 2013, Alexander is preparing to take the MCAT and hopes to enroll in medical school soon.
A different kind of doctor, longtime Mizzou track and field coach and Positive Coaching Program creator Dr. Rick McGuire, also was inducted.
“I’m old,” McGuire joked when asked about the honor. He later added, “When you’re a coach, it’s really about the athlete. … The only reason that a coach ends up here is because of what a whole lot of kids did.”
He coached 143 All-Americans, 100 conference champions, 29 future U.S. track and field team members, seven NCAA champions, five Olympians, including two silver medalists, three world champions and three collegiate record holders from 1983-2010.
That group includes Russ Bell, a four-time All-American thrower from Jefferson City. Bell also walked on with the football team for two seasons under Gary Pinkel in 2002-03.
“Andy Hill never missed a chance to say, ‘Russ, when you coming out (for football)? When you coming out?’” Bell said. “Finally, one day I said, ‘It’s time.’ Pinkel gave me the opportunity to do it and coach (Craig) Kuligowski was more than happy to have me on the D-line.”
Bell was thrilled to be enshrined alongside McGuire.
“It’s amazing,” Bell said. “He’s the one that gave me a college education. He gave me the ability to get a job with benefits — not to mention to be an athlete, to be an All-American.”
Perhaps nobody made a bigger sacrifice return to Columbia for the ceremony than Max Askren, the NCAA 184-pound wrestling champion in 2010 and a three-time All-American.
He’s missing the Wisconsin state high school wrestling championships, where dozens of kids from the Askren Wrestling Academy he operates with his brother (and fellow Mizzou Hall of Famer), Ben, are competing.
“State wrestling weekend is one of my favorite weekends of the year,” Askren said.
It was simply an honor he couldn’t pass up.
“This was never something I thought about even after my career … (but) realizing that there’s only five or six wrestlers have been inducted into this Hall of Fame, you start to understand how special it is,” Askren said.
Former two-sport star Jack Davis and four-time All-American gymnast Sarah Shire, who was a two-time Big 12 champion and the 2010 NCAA runner-up on the floor exercise, also were enshrined.
Davis, who is from North Kansas City and was drafted by the Yankees, was a baseball All-American in 1957 after batting .437 and still owns the Mizzou record for career batting average (.399). He also once owned the Tigers’ records in the 60-yard dash and 60-yard low hurdles.