Ja’Marion Wayne was selected as the Tiger who will wear No. 25 this season as a tribute to former Missouri linebacker Aaron O’Neal, who died during a voluntary workout in 2009. O’Neal’s father and a group of alumni attended practice last week to tell the team about him, before the coaching staff and players selected Wayne for the honor.
Wayne came to Missouri from Parkway West in St. Louis, the same hometown as O’Neal, who attended Parkway North. Though recruited as a four-star wide receiver, he moved to safety at the start of fall camp.
"He’s super athletic, super talented, super humble,” Manuel said of Wayne. “I mean, to be a four-star receiver and you give that up to play safety, that’s obviously very humble. A lot of people would have hit the portal, so I’m really proud of him and he’s done some great things.”
Manuel said before he came to Missouri, he didn’t know the story of O’Neal, but listened with great interest when fellow defensive back Jalani Williams, who attended Parkway North, filled him in.
Blaze Alldredge wore the number for Missouri last year. Zaviar Gooden, Donavin Newsom and Jamal Brooks previously donned 25 in honor of O’Neal.