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Alabama in the Pros

Former Alabama OL Evan Neal ‘playing to his strengths’ in the NFL

Giants' OT Evan Neal (#73) leaves the field after pregame warmups for 2022 game against Titans
Christopher Hanewinckel - USA Today Sports

Evan Neal learned a lot as a rookie in 13 games for the New York Giants in 2022.

As a native Floridian, he grew to become a five-star recruit at IMG Academy and chose the University of Alabama in the 2019 recruiting cycle. Neal became one of the best offensive linemen of the Nick Saban era, clearing the way for three 1,000+ yard rushing seasons for Najee Harris (two) and Brian Robinson (one). He also protected Tua Tagovailoa, Mac Jones, and Bryce Young to impressive numbers as quarterbacks. Neal assisted Tagavailoa and Jones in being Heisman Trophy finalists while helping Young become the first signal-caller in Crimson Tide history to win the Heisman Memorial Trophy.

RELATED: Former Alabama OT Evan Neal signs his rookie contract for New York Giants

The 6-foot-7, 337-pounder was a College Football Playoff National Champion in 2020, a Consensus All-American in 2021, and a first-team All-SEC selection in 2021. Neal got selected at No. 7 overall by the Giants in the 2022 NFL Draft.

He stated in an interview that he is adjusting to change in his second season in the league.

“I am open to change,” Neal said. “In this league, you have got to be able to adapt. I have done a lot of things that have worked for me in the past, and I have done things that have not worked well. So, it is another one of those things. I am trying something new to see how I can get better.”

As he is finding ways to better his game, Kayvon Thibodeaux sees growth in Neal.

“He’s been able to process it more, mentally,” Thibodeaux said about Neal’s growth. “You have to play to your strengths. Guys come into the NFL and want to be like someone else. They want to take every tool they can get, but you are who you are. Once you understand what type of player you are and grow with the assets you have, you become a great player. I think he’s done a great job of blocking out the noise, staying on his grind, and continuing to ask questions. Be hungry. Be curious.”

The Giants looked better as a team last season under Brian Daboll. It is going to be good to watch Neal’s next steps.

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Stephen M. Smith is the managing editor and senior writer for Touchdown Alabama Magazine.  You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @CoachingMSmith.

Stephen Smith is a 2015 graduate of the University of Alabama. He is a senior writer and reporter for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. He has covered Alabama football for 10+ years and his knowledge and coverage of the Crimson Tide's program have made him among the most respected journalist in his field. Smith has been featured on ESPN and several other marquee outlets as an analyst.

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