Written By: Chris Taylor | @BallStateCT
Senior Director of Digital Sports Production &
Lecturer of Telecommunications
For anyone who’s been around Ball State for some time, you get a label. He’s a “Ball State guy”.
Sometimes those labels could be fair or unfair, depending on your perspective.
As my students know, I am a very prideful person. Ball State is a special place. I am proud to wear my “Ball State guy” patch visible for all to see. I know and accept the responsibilities of being an advocate for and advancing my University.
So, when Pete Lembo resigned as head football coach in December, the talk among many turned to “we need a Ball State guy”.
Mike Neu is a “Ball State guy”. Mark Sandy made the right choice.
As a freshman at Ball State in 1992 (yes, gasp …), I started as a telecommunications production major and a student assistant in the Ball State Athletics Communications office.
I’d come in and work in the office in a variety of roles for then assistant director Bob Moore. Bob was a wonderfully bright and gifted writer — and a very passionate professional.
So, in 1992, I remember my first Ball State football game as Bob assigned me to do postgame quotes. Ball State defeated Miami (Ohio) 19-9. The quarterback was junior Mike Neu.
I was anxious and excited to have such an “important role” to provide a quote sheet to the media. Mike was the first “all star” athlete I met and worked with at Ball State.
My postgame quotes and working on the stat crew continued. So did the touchdown passes — and the legacy being made — for Mike.
Speaking of the stat crew and touchdown passes, I witnessed the greatest Ball State game ever in 1993.
I watched — and recorded the statistics — as Neu brought the Cardinals back from a 27-0 deficit in the third quarter and defeated Toledo, 31-30 for Homecoming.
It was all led by Mike. He threw four touchdown passes, including the game-tying score with no time on the clock.
For the day, he finished 28-of-40 for 469 yards and four touchdowns. He broke four school records that day — passing yards (469), total offense (450), career passing yards (5,185) and longest play (98).
After the game, my postgame quote skills were back.
“I would trade all the records in the world, or all the records I’ve been fortunate enough to break here, if we can keep getting victories and win the MAC.”
Ball State won the MAC and advanced to the Las Vegas Bowl. Mike was named the MAC’s Vern Smith Award winner as the league’s Most Valuable Player.
I went to Vegas for the bowl game. I still have my Nerf, logo-printed Vegas bowl football.
I’m happy to say Mike and I developed a friendship that year. And even though the years have passed, through my full-time role then in athletics, it was a friendship which continued.
It was through sports information I met Mike in 1992, and also through sports information where “the Ball State guy” truly solidified his role to me several years later.
August 29, 2005. Hurricane Katrina leveled New Orleans.
Mike was the head coach of the Voodoo, New Orleans’ Arena Football League franchise. The Voodoo belonged to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson at the time.
When the Voodoo suspended operations for the 2006 season following Hurricane Katrina, Neu worked for the Saints as a college scout. He was also a scout for the team from 2009 to 2011, before eventually being named the team’s quarterback coach in 2014.
In 2008, one of the first major conventions to return to New Orleans was the College Sports Information Directors of America. I attended every national CoSIDA convention during my full-time days at BSU.
Almost three years after the devastation, Mike, who was working with the Saints at the time, picked us up from our downtown hotel to tour around New Orleans.
I learned a lot more about Mike on that drive through neighborhoods and parts of New Orleans under complete destruction. It was completely mind-blowing and visuals I vividly remember to this day.
The neighborhoods with the “X” spray painted on doors and roofs, signaling the houses searched. Miles and miles of FEMA trailers.
Still, three years following, the smell of stagnant water and chemicals strong. The smell of decimation.
On that drive, Mike was a proud New Orleanian. Thankfully he and his family lived far enough out of New Orleans proper to avoid severe loss during Katrina.
He took us to the New Orleans Saints practice facility too. Proud of his employer.
I remember every Saints player or staffer to pass us, always stopped to talk to Mike. And Mike would introduce us as “meet my friends from Ball State”.
Mike has more than 15 years of coaching experience from the NFL, to arena football to college.
He’s scouted. He’s recruited. He’s played the game. He’s a winner. He’s a friend.
Granted, there’s a lot more to being a successful football coach than I will ever know. But I know this, Ball State needed “a Ball State guy”.
Mike will be every bit the ambassador, leader and advocate for his University as his predecessor. His players will love playing for him.
I am just as anxious — and excited — as I was in 1992 to do some postgame quotes and work with Mike again. Lets wear our “he’s a Ball State guy” patches proudly.
Welcome back, Mike.