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La Crosse's Musil makes move to Oklahoma official

By CONOR NICHOLL

cnicholl@dailynews.net

In fall 2007, Hutchinson Community College head football coach Rion Rhodes gave La Crosse juniors Jeremy Garcia, Marshall Musil, Corey Torrez and Lucas Ruff, letters that said HCC would offer a football scholarship when the quartet were seniors.

According to Garcia, Musil said then that he would attend Hutchinson for college football. That changed with the University of Kansas offering him a scholarship last spring, a move that spawned multiple Division I offers for Musil.

"Then he got all of these offers from all these Division I schools and then we realized that he was a little better than juco," Garcia said. "Me and big Luke still wanted to stick with junior college."

On Wednesday at the La Crosse auditorium, Garcia, Ruff and Musil all made their college choices official. Garcia and Ruff signed with Hutchinson.

Musil, who committed to the University of Oklahoma last summer, signed to play for the Sooners.

"It kind of snuck up on me to tell you the truth," Musil said. "A month ago we had kind of been talking about it that it was coming up and then it was just here. It was a real exciting day. Getting here right away at 8 o'clock and signing your name to Oklahoma was pretty fun. That was a good way to start my day."

The three players formed the backbone for La Crosse, a Class 2-1A powerhouse that didn't lose a regular-season contest in the last three seasons.

The Leopards went 32-3 the last three years, including an 11-1 record this season. The Leopards finished ranked No. 2 in Class 2-1A behind Smith Center.

Garcia, the team's starting quarterback for the past two seasons, passed for 1,228 yards this fall, rushed for 488 and accounted for 31 total touchdowns passing and rushing in 2008. On defense, Garcia started at outside linebacker but is expected to play either safety or wide reciever in college. Garcia chose between Garden City and Hutchinson, a place where La Crosse head football coach Ryan Cornelsen has a good relationship with Rhodes.

"Garden City was a very good place, too, but Hutch I have family there, it is close to home," Garcia said. "The facilities were a major part of my decision. The coaching staff overall at Hutch, I really liked them."

Garcia becomes the third member of his close-knit family to play college football, joining his dad, Mario, and his brother, Joey, an all-conference player for Dodge City who has signed to be Sterling College's quarterback.

"It means a lot," Garcia said. I get to carry on that tradition. I love football. I have never known any other sport besides football. To continue in that tradition, it means a lot to me. It means a lot to my dad."

Ruff, a four-year starter on the line for La Crosse, committed to Hutchinson earlier than Garcia. His blocking opened the way for two 1,000 rushers and an 1,000-yard passer, the first time that happened in the six-year Cornelsen era. The 6-foot, 302-pound Ruff, who also played defensive line, helped La Crosse move into the third round of the playoffs.

"There were a couple other choices, but this was one that I was really comfortable with," he said. "It was a pretty easy choice. I had been decided for several weeks before I gave my verbal committ."

He will likely play guard at Hutchinson and could start as a freshman on a team that finished the season ranked last fall.

"The improvement over the last few years," Ruff said. "I think they have been getting a lot better. I think they are going to compete for a national championship this year."

Musil, who rushed for 1,272 yards, 92 tackles and 27 TDs, will join an Oklahoma team that fell one win short of the BCS national championship this season.

"You never know to be honest, but I always felt like he was capable of playing Div.ison I," Cornelsen, who recently took the Hays High School football/track coach position, said.

For many months, though, Musil always felt he would play junior college football like his friends and former teammates, Mike Powell and Andrew Hollis.

"That was the thing I been thinking in my head when I was a junior and sophomore," Musil said. "That came in my head, me, Luke, Jeremy and Corey, Mike and Hollis are playing in the same place, we may have talked about it has a group. That sounded fun."

During track season, Musil first started to get the Division. I offers. He filled up a shoebox with letters from KU, Oklahoma, Kansas State, Texas Christian University, University of Tulsa and many others. In the spring, he went to Kansas with his mom, Connie, and sister, Meredith. KU head coach Mark Mangino offered Musil a scholarship.

"That was a really exciting time when coach Mangino offered me in person," Musil said. "That was fun. I was speechless. I don't know if I expected it at the time, but that is the thing that I have always wanted, was to go play big time college football somewhere."

Musil's family was shocked, including Meredith, a current student at Fort Hays State University and possible graduate student at Oklahoma, who often comes home to watch her brother play.

"What Marshall is doing will only happen once," she said. "I just feel like I need to be for those things. Going into high school, you think okay, I am going to get a junior college scholarship because that is what is around here and that is the next step. When Mangino talked to us that day, it was something that I had always wished for, but then when it was finally happening, it was breath-taking.

"My mom and I didn't even say anything for awhile," she added. "It's a good thing that Marshall could talk because we were just like 'are you serious? Do you know who you are talking to?'"

In the summer, Musil was offered by OU head coach Bob Stoops and is projected to play fullback/tight end in the Sooner offense.

He might also be used on special teams and defense. He will report to OU on June 8.

"I will play wherever they want me to play," he said. "I will kick if they want me to."