NFL draft 2022: How snake-twirling potential No. Evan Neal is the pick that makes everything seem easy

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. INDIANAPOLIS (Ind.) — Even a 6′-7, 337-pound solar eclipse can be lost in the great constellation of stars that Nick Saban's constellation of stars. AlabamaFootball program.

It is almost impossible for an offensive lineman, no matter how dominant, to compete against five 2021 first-round NFL draft selections on offense, including a Heisman-winning QB.Bryce Young) and one of the most fearsome pass-rushers in recent memory who rivals Young as a potential 2023 No. 1 pickWill Anderson Jr.).

Now is the time! Evan Neal‘s time. It's not surprising that the left tackle has made a steady climb through two of America's most prestigious football schools — IMG Academy in Alabama and Alabama. While at those stops, he has accumulated the game tape, practice reps against other future pros and a résumé that has emanated an unsurprising air to his status as a consensus top-10 pick.

“The kid's a home run,” said TexasKyle Flood was Neal's offensive coordinator for two seasons at Alabama. “He's a simple choice. He'd be a great offensive tackle if you were looking for one at the top of the draft. He will play in the league for a minimum of 10 years and be an All Pro.

Neal has led these schools to 64-5 records over the past six season. Additionally, he established such an excellent reputation — “safe,” ‘no holes' and “makes is look easy” were observations made by one NFL scout — that his meteoric rise can be attributed to its predictability.

Neal wore bookish glasses, drove an Alabama Dodge Ram and was well-known at IMG for casually twirling snakes. He is known for his serious demeanor and easygoing attitude.

“You're not going get any drama together,” said Arkansas StateButch Jones, an ex-staffer from Alabama. He's not emotional. He is very objective. He is very risk-free. He was an expert in the field of maturity when he arrived in Alabama.

This evolution from a certainty to something has carried an aura of predictability.

FOLLOWING IMG ACADEMYDerek Shay, the offensive line coach, held a cookout with his position group in 2017. This kind of get to know you gathering is common across the country each fall.

Neal arrived by foot and was carrying a dead snake he had picked up on his walk. Shay and Katie will forever be captivated by the sight of a 6-foot-7 giant twirling a reptile.

Shay laughed in a phone interview, saying that she was shocked. “We're from Illinois. He's a country boy with a lot of backwoods. He is a good, down-to-earth kid.”

This moment gave Neal a glimpse into his unassuming life, a nod towards his roots in rural Okeechobee (Florida), a small town of just under 6,000 people located between Orlando and Fort Lauderdale.

Neal's humble upbringing shaped his work ethic, focus and humility. These traits have remained closely connected to his rise. Neal's father Eddie was a linebacker at the University of Alabama. TulaneHe also had two uncles. Cleveland Gary Jimmie Jones• Who was a player in the NFL

“He's an immense human being,” she said. OregonCoach Dan Lanning, who was against Neal as a coach Georgia‘s defensive coordinator. “If he and [341-pound UGA defensive lineman] Jordan DavisThey would make anyone within 20 miles of them feel very uncomfortable if they entered a room together.

Neal led IMG to a record of 27-1 over three seasons. He also left the school as the No. The No. 4 player in the ESPN 300 for the Class of 2019. He showed the personality that made him stand out in Tuscaloosa right away after his arrival.

Neal was a sophomore and backed up OklahomaLineman Robert CongelWhen he was hurt, he was taken over as his guard.

“Robert returned healthy and Evan said, ‘Hey, listen. It's his spot.'” Don Zoloty (IMG's football properties manager) said. “He is a senior and must get back in. I am here to support him.

“That gave us an idea of Evan's personality right from the beginning. He is a leader. Period.”

However, to shape that 6-foot-7 body, he had overcome one of his few obstacles on the path to the NFL draft.

IMG Academy, a high school located on 600 acres in Bradenton Florida, is also a training facility for professional athletes. Neal was able to run into a longtime NFL player. Bryan BulagaOne day in the weigh room. Bulaga, entering his 12th NFL Season, noticed Neal's large frame holding on to too much baby fat. He gave a harsh but accurate assessment: “If you want to be a professional player in football, you will have to get your body in a better shape.”

Shay said that Neal was initially a little agitated by Shay's advice. After all, he had achieved stardom and became an elite recruit without any harsh criticism. The conversation was a turning point after some initial bristling. Shay described it as “a light switch being flipped.” He became a completely different child.

Neal was a member of an IMG team in his junior year, which already had 10 players drafted to the NFL. He is a massive tackler. Daniel Faalele (6-foot-8, 384 pounds) of MinnesotaThat number will rise to 12. Neal enjoyed his daily battles against players such as the current Georgia linebacker Nolan SmithThe No. 2 overall recruit in ESPN's class was. Neal was the 2nd overall recruit in his class. He will be a top 2023 NFL prospect.

Zoloty stated that “pretty much all of the college coaches you talked to were on the exact same page.” “They looked at [Evan]and his athleticism. [his potential was]It's almost a given. It was impossible to make it up.

WHEN FLOOD ARRIVEDIn January 2019, Flood was Alabama's offensive-line coach. He had never met Neal. Flood quickly realized that Neal was his true potential.

Flood explained to Neal, in their first meeting, that experienced tackles are the best. Alex Leatherwood Jedrick Wills Jr. He was both first-round draft picks.

Flood recalled Neal’s response: “I don’t mind where I play, but I just want to play.”

This down-home, snake-twirling attitude was evident in Neal's college career. He became the first true freshman from Alabama to play on the offensive line and won a spot on the interior. Neal sought out practice reps from imposing veterans such as Christian Barmore Raekwon Davis.

“Every child these days thinks that they are the next.” Anthony MunozFlood stated that he agreed. Flood stated that Flood was a child who wanted to win from the beginning.

Neal began at left guard in 2019, but switched to right-tackle in 2020 in Alabama's national championship season. He also played the entire 2018 season at left tackle. Neal was allowed one sack in 2021 on the final play of the season in the loss to Georgia for the national championship.

Neal began 40 games in just three seasons. He became so dominant, he only allowed pressures to apply on 1.1 percent his pass blocks last season.

“I think he really exemplifies what it means to be an Alabama guy. Coach Saban preaches everything about ‘The Process,' dedication and what it takes for a person to be good,” Alabama redshirt senior Emil Ekiyor Jr. ESPN. “He lives that philosophy and strives to do it every single day.” The man has put in a lot of effort and is now reaping the rewards.

The play Neal made at Alabama that is perhaps more well-known than any one of his plays on the field is the clip that epitomizes his athleticismThis 48-inch split leg box jump was shared on social media last year. This is a truly amazing feat of explosiveness for someone his size.

Neal was a slim, 337-pound man on his 6-foot-7 frame by the time he made it to the NFL combine. He weighed that much so comfortably that he looked more like a tight end than a big tackle. This is impressive, considering that Neal arrived in Alabama at 380 pounds — his high school weight was 37.5 — and worked hard to improve his physique to be an elite prospect.

A second NFL scout, who studied Neal, said that he was “one of the best body types I have seen on the road.” “He's 350 pounds and that's how he played this year. He's not fat.” He is truly, really impressive.

Neal was only absent from one game in his entire career — against ArkansasHe claimed he contracted COVID-19 in the 2020 season. He couldn't practice during the SEC title match against him. FloridaEven though he had flown in a private plane to get there the night before, he still felt the same. He stated that he was a couch potato for the past two weeks.

Ekiyor recalls Neal's intense breathing during the SEC title game. He had to repeat line calls as Neal was so focused in catching his breath. Alabama staffers recall him running to the oxygen tank at the sideline during series.

They laugh at the image of the oxygen mask looking like an open bottle cap in their large hands. He immediately started to fog up and gasp for air. He described it as “a feeling like I was inhaling through a coffee straw.”

Flood and Ekiyor both consider this one of Neal’s most memorable and best performances. Alabama scored 52 points while accumulating 605 yards. Ekiyor stated that he still doesn't understand how it was possible.

Neal's game doesn't always work. Scouts aren't happy with Neal's aggressive play style and personality. They say, “You don’t know if it's super hard because he makes everything look so easy.”

Another noted that there is room for improvement in Neal's ability to stay on his feet and sustain blocks. Neal's inexperience is indicative of the fact that many offensive linemen are fifth year college players.

Flood also has many nuanced qualities that are worth mentioning. Flood said to the NFL, “He has an uncanny capability to bend at his own size. Flood is 6-foot-7, and can still block low to mid-high and pass under smaller players. He is a master at this, and he consistently wins low.

Neal, who was on the interview podium at the NFL Combine, stood fully aware of his place in Alabama lore. If he gets No. He could be drafted No. 2 he would be the highest Alabama draft pick coached Saban. He'll undoubtedly help Saban tie John Robinson. USCFor the nine most offensive linemen in the first round for one coach, (nine) during the common draft era.

When asked if he was bothered by being overshadowed and the fact that his teammates are more prominent, he casually dismissed the idea as if he were still twirling a snake.

He said with a laugh, “I'm a offensive lineman man.” It's all about guts and no glory in trenches. … I am happy for them all, happy for their success and excited to share that with them.

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