July 11, 2006

Memories of O'Neal still strong for Tigers

Three hundred and sixty-four days later, it hasn't gotten any easier. Time, they say, heals all wounds. But for the Missouri Tigers, a year has not been nearly enough time to ease the pain of losing teammate Aaron O'Neal following a July 12, 2005 workout at Faurot Field.

"It's never a day (I don't think about it)," said junior wide receiver William Franklin, a member of the same Tiger recruiting class as O'Neal. "It's something that I'll never forget and I know my teammates will never forget."

While the legal proceedings move forward in the O'Neal family's lawsuit against 14 members of the Missouri athletic department and staff, the Tiger football family still thinks of O'Neal daily.

"July 12th is always on our minds," said strength and conditioning coach Pat Ivey, who oversaw the workout last summer. "We do the AO chant every day. It's always on our minds."

For Ivey, last summer may have been tougher than any other Tiger. After all, it was his staff that drew much of the criticism that was lobbed Missouri's way in the wake of O'Neal's death. A year later, the former Tiger defensive end says he is getting through it.

The Tigers will hold a private gathering to remember O'Neal on Wednesday, the one-year anniversary of his death, according to an athletic department spokesman. It is simply another way in which the players try to keep alive the memory of their fallen teammate.

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