Former Miami Dolphin visits area schools

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 17, 2001

A legendary athlete while playing for both the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Miami Dolphins, Don McNeal was in the Camellia City on Thursday, speaking to students about maintaining good values.

David Brantley, headmaster at Ft. Dale Academy was a coach in Atmore, Ala. when McNeal started playing high school football. McNeal went on to play for four years at the University of Alabama before having a phenomenal ten-year career with the Miami Dolphins.

Brantley, when introducing McNeal, referred to him as a good Christian man, living by good Christian ideals.

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&uot;Coach Bear Bryant and Coach Don Shula taught me a lot about class,&uot; McNeal told the student body at Ft. Dale Academy. &uot;I learned that a player must carry himself well, and represent his team well n we were in two of Alabama's 12 National Championships.&uot;

While with the Bear, McNeal played in three Sugar Bowls, and during his junior year, the Tide enjoyed an 11-1 season, winning the National Championship.

During McNeal's senior year he was named as &uot;Captain of the Tide&uot; and led his team to a 12-0 season, and a second consecutive National Championship.

During his enrollment at U of A, McNeal earned &uot;All American&uot; honors and also was named to the &uot;All American Strength Team.&uot;

McNeal, one of 10 siblings, spoke to the students about his father.

&uot;My dad had his hands full, raising us up right,&uot; he said. &uot;My mother died when I was very young, and daddy raised all of us by himself.

&uot;He taught me that life was about choices, and making the right choices.&uot;

The star defensive back then related a story about how Brantley had helped him early on in life.

&uot;My girlfriend had asked me to move a TV set for her n I was so proud, because she trusted me enough to let me move her TV for her. Well, I was so excited that when I carried the TV to my car, and set it on the roof, I forgot it was there, until I had driven down the road a ways, and looking in the rearview window, I saw her TV bouncing in the street n it bounced until stopping against a tree, but of course it was destroyed.&uot;

McNeal said he went to Brantley, and told him what had happened.

&uot;I told him I didn't know how I would be able to replace that TV, and he took me to the bank, and helped me take out a loan, establishing good credit, so I could replace it.&uot;

He said that was a valuable key to his future successes in life, because he learned about values and responsibilities.

McNeal then asked the students what they thought was the worst drug plaguing America's schools today.

&uot;Alcohol is the number one drug plaguing our schools today n it took my cousin's life n he died from sclerosis of the liver n basically he made the wrong choice,&uot; he said. &uot;I've got a friend who is 6-feet, 10-inches tall n now that's a big man! I saw him recently, crawling on the floor, looking for a ball of crack he had dropped, because he is an addict n he made the wrong choice.&uot;

During a question and answer period, McNeal was asked if he played with Dan Marino while with the Miami Dolphins.

&uot;I played with Dan for nine of my 10 years on the Dolphins n I think he is the greatest quarterback in football,&uot; he said.

At the conclusion of the assembly, McNeal handed out collector cards of himself, autographing them for the students.

From Ft. Dale Academy, Brantley took McNeal to speak at Greenville Academy and also Greenville High School.