Edwardsville High senior all-state quarterback Dan Marinko, who won Belleville News-Democrat Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year honors the past two seasons, gave a verbal commitment to Division II University of Central Missouri.
Marinko will sign with the Mules on Feb. 4, which is signing day for football and several other sports. Edwardsville senior linebacker Curt Mueller guaranteed he will get to play against his former high school teammate by committing to Northwest Missouri State; both schools compete in the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, one of the toughest Division II leagues in the country.
“Really the only ones I was looking at were Northwest Missouri and Central,” said Marinko, who threw for a school record 5,315 yards and 56 touchdowns in two seasons as a starter for the Tigers. “Central’s is a little bit bigger community and it was sort of like Edwardsville, it made me feel like home. The facilities were nice, too. They just re-did a lot of stuff with their stadium and they’re adding a lot of new upgrades.
“They had a great business program, which is what I’m going into, so that really appealed to me as well.”
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Central Missouri State is located near Kansas City, Mo., in Warrensburg, Mo. The Mules were 8-4 last season and defeated Southeastern Oklahoma State 48-21 in the Texarkana Bowl.
Marinko (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) was 21-3 as a starter and the versatile quarterback also ran for 1,217 yards and 29 TDs the past two seasons. As a senior this season he threw for 2,023 yards and 23 TDs, completing 133-of-219 passes.
Marinko said he also had offers from Northwest Missouri State, Truman State, Southwest Baptist and McKendree. He also had interest from Missouri State and Drake.
“Things really weren’t moving forward (with the bigger schools) and I wasn’t really comfortable that my spot would get filled up at one of those schools,” Marinko said. “I just took control and committed. It’s the most important decision I’ve had to make.
“Honestly, the feeling I got on campus at Central was just different. My parents could tell, too, and they said my eyes lit up more. I pretty much knew that Central was the one I wanted to be at.”
Mueller, who projects as a defensive end, said he also had offers from Central Missouri, Missouri Western and Lindenwood.
Northwest Missouri State owns four Division II national championships since 2998, the last one coming in 2013. Located in Maryville, Mo., the Bearcats were 10-2 last season and made their 11th straight playoff appearance.
“That was a big part of it,” Mueller said of Northwest’s long run of national playoff success. “The winning tradition, the coaches, the community and the academic side, especially, were good. “It made it pretty easy for me.
“The schools that really want you only give you about one or two days to decide and there’s a lot of money on the table. Everybody’s pressuring you to make a decision.”
Mueller was one of the anchors of Edwardsville’s defense at inside linebacker. He had 34 tackles, one sack and one fumble recovery.