Harbaugh’s blueberry story resonates with UM target Neilon

Brandon Justice
Special to The Detroit News
Brett Neilon

Brett Neilon, a four-star offensive lineman out of Santa Margarita Catholic High in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, has become a hot commodity among the nation’s top programs.

Neilon (6-2, 280) had strong showings at all of the camps he attended, but there is something beyond his game that coaches appreciate – his positive attitude. Neilon, who has a 4.07 GPA, seems to be smiling in just about every camp photo taken of him. He’s excited to be playing the game, and that’s something Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh probably noticed.

Neilon, a class of 2017 prospect, is known for his elite agility. His consistency on the line sticks out in his film, and he makes getting to the second level look like a walk in the park. When the running back runs past him, Neilon runs behind him the entire way – and doesn’t stray too far behind, either.

Neilon has become a national recruit, and while some analysts are counting Michigan out of the race for the West Coast lineman, the Wolverines just might be leading the way.

“(Michigan) is incredible,” he said after his April visit to the Ann Arbor campus. “There’s nothing like it.”

Neilon visited for Michigan’s annual spring game. He was impressed by the football program, but also took notice of the academics.

“(The visit) ranks really high. The academics really blew me away with the Ross School of Business,” he said. “Michigan football is headed to a national championship. Ann Arbor is a great town with amazing fans.”

Trieu: Four-star lineman Thompson has Michigan ‘on top’

A conversation Neilon had with Harbaugh earlier this month may have placed Michigan at the top of Neilon’s list among schools he is considering.

The topic: blueberries.

“He told me, if you buy a pack of 30 blueberries and one is moldy, it will affect the others, and that’s why he doesn’t recruit moldy blueberries,” Neilon said, laughing, recalling his talk with Harbaugh. “(Harbaugh) thinks I will fit perfectly at Michigan.”

While some have said distance from home would be a factor in Neilon choosing a college, he debunked any thought of that playing a role in his decision.

“No, (distance) does not (have an effect) at all,” Neilon said.

A lot of things can stand out to a Michigan target. Neilon’s version is unique, but fits him perfectly.

“The family atmosphere,” he said. “They build you into a better man than before.”

Neilon, who plans on attending Michigan’s satellite camp in Norco, California, on June 12, was silent when he was asked if the Wolverines are leading in his recruitment. But it seems there’s no other school that has a grip on Neilon quite like Michigan.

Neilon said Harbaugh and his staff are recruiting him harder than any other program.

“They’re on me really hard,” he said. “They even talked with me on spring break. It just shows how much they want me.”

Michigan likely will face the stiffest competition from USC and Washington. Neilon said in an interview with Scout that the Wolverines, Trojans and Huskies stand out most to him right now.

Brandon Justice is a freelance writer. He can be reached at brandonjustice21@gmail.com. Twitter: @BrandonCJustice