Originally created 09/20/96

Aiken High's Neely Page: one of the best



Sometimes, Neely Page gets tired of talking about football.

After football practice, he can't go home and study. Recruiters are ringing his phone off the hook, throwing their best pitch at him.

This is what happens when you're considered one of the best offensive linemen in the country. He's rated the 19th-best offensive lineman in the nation by SuperPrep magazine.

At 10 p.m., Page turns on the answering machine.

"We try not to talk about football when I get home," said Page of his family. "That's all anybody wants to talk about."

Page's talents are what make the college recruiters drool. They love Page's size, 6-foot-4, 280 pounds, strength, speed off the ball and toughness. He is being recruited by Clemson, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Florida State and Alabama.

He will attend the Florida-Tennessee game Saturday as a Volunteer guest, and has trips scheduled to Clemson and Alabama in the next two weeks. The college road trip follows today's 8 p.m., visit by unbeaten Evans.

The 17-year-old skipped the Georgia-South Carolina game as a Gamecock recruiting guest because he was tired and wanted to rest after a Friday victory over Midland Valley.

Page attended football camp at Clemson in the off-season and credits Tiger wide receivers coach Rick Stockstill for telling him that he could play Division I football.

"There were people around here saying it, but just hearing it from the actual people helped," Page said.

This Hornet has one goal when he goes one-on-one with a defender: To put the opposing player on his backside or, if not that, move him up the field so he doesn't make the tackle.

Aiken offensive line coach Bucky Tillotson said that even as a freshman, Page was aggressive.

"I could tell then he was going to be good," Tillotson said. "Age wise, he was a pretty big kid then, too."

Hornets coach Carey Johnson said Page has the makings of being an outstanding Division I player. The senior tackle has already qualified with a 3.1 grade point average and over 1,000 on the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT).

"He's smart, very aggressive, very strong and has good speed (5.0 in 40) for his size," Johnson said. "He loves playing the game, that's the main thing. Plus, he's a good role model for the younger kids."

Offensive linemen are usually not in the Saturday morning box scores but that doesn't bother Page.

"When I see our (running) back's name in the newspaper, that makes me just as happy," Page said. "We (offensive line) know we did our job when we see that and I think people know, too."

Page is probably the team's most motivated player as far as making amends for last season. Aiken was declared ineligible for the Class AAAA, Division II playoffs for holding illegal contact drills in the spring of 1995.

"We still focus on that a lot," Page said. "It still motivates us."

Individually, Page hopes to be selected to the Shrine Bowl team. The annual game between prep stars in South Carolina and North Carolina is Dec. 21 in Charlotte.

"It's very important," Page said. "It's probably one of the best honors you could get to play in that game. It means a lot to myself."