McNeal's guide to success

Published 6:13 pm Wednesday, January 31, 2007

By By Matthew Nascone
Don McNeal received instruction and guidance from two legendary coaches in his football playing days.
The 1976 Escambia County High School graduate played for Paul "Bear" Bryant during his time at the University of Alabama and he also played for Miami Dolphins great, Don Shula, in the NFL, but the inspiration for his new book came from his father, Henry McNeal.
"My father has always been my biggest inspiration," McNeal said. "Because after my mother died when I was 6 years old he took care of all 10 of us. He raised us all by himself."
McNeal said in a press release that he titled his book "Home Team Advantage" in memory of his father giving him the "Home Team Advantage to win in the game of life."
The book was published and dedicated to McNeal's daughter Jessica because McNeal wanted to show his daughter the journey he has taken and how he got to where he is today.
The lessons McNeal learned from his father helped prepare him for college, professional football, church ministry and his diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis, McNeal said.
The main emphasis throughout the book is on helping people live a full life through Jesus Christ, McNeal said. The book outlines McNeal's six principles for effective teamwork.
"This is my first book I have written and I am proud of where I come from," McNeal said. "And I try to portray that in the book and maybe I can help some people in some way and give them inspiration to live life to the fullest."
McNeal's father Henry had a saying in his home of "Together we stand, divided we fall." McNeal took this saying to heart and even had a sub head with that same saying.
The six principles of the book are, Unity: Together we stand, Responsibility: Be responsible to and for each other, Persistence: Go through it, not around it, Consistency: Don't let your highs get you too high, or your lows get you too low, Excellence: Do more than is expected of you and always do your best and Relationships: Play together, win together.
McNeal and his siblings grew up in a house in McCullough and they went to ECHS. McNeal said his time at Atmore was great and he loves the area. From Atmore, McNeal went on to play corner back for the University of Alabama and Bear Bryant.
"I had a great time playing for the legendary Bear Bryant," McNeal said. "I was part of two national championship teams and three Sugar Bowls while there."
McNeal's tutelage took a step up in 1980 when he the Miami Dolphins drafted him in the first round of the NFL draft. He played 10 seasons for another football legend, Don Shula.
"I also had a great time in the NFL playing for Don Shula," McNeal said. "I had a good career that could have been longer, but I was injured a couple times. I overcame those injuries and had a great career."
Shula had some positive feedback for McNeal's book, as displayed in a press release.
"It is a wonderful story of overcoming all obstacles and making it in life," Shula said. "Then, after success, a willingness to tell all to help others. I'm proud of him."
McNeal has been the pastor of New Testament Baptist Church in Miami, Fla. for the past 14 years and he has been a public speaker for Sports World Inc for 10 years. Sports World is an organization that employs former NFL players to speak to children about the dangers children face in their everyday lives. McNeal is one of 12 former players linked to the program.
McNeal calls upon what he calls one of his lowest points in his life when he speaks to the children.
"One of the low points in my life is when I missed that tackle of John Riggins in the Super Bowl," McNeal said. "I tell whoever I speak to that was a definite low, but I did not let it get me down because I may have been alone on that field, but I am not alone in life. I have God with me at all times and I use that story to explain that fact to the children."
The tackle McNeal missed has gone down in history as the turning point of Super Bowl XVII, when the Dolphins lost 27-17 at the hands of Riggins and the Washington Redskins. The backlash from that missed tackle ate at McNeal for days, he said.
This story is also mentioned in "Home Team Advantage." The book focuses on his rise from a small town Alabama child to an NFL player. Along the way he takes the audience on a journey through his life with all the ups and downs included.
McNeal has had many successes as well. He was part of the 1974 state championship team at ECHS, won two national championships as a member of the Crimson Tide football team in 1978-79 and played in two NFL Super Bowls.
"I was very successful in college and one of my best memories is what has become known as the 'Goal Line Stand,'" McNeal said. "We were playing Penn State and we held them from scoring and that won us the game. And I want to show people how my relationship with Jesus Christ has been the same through the good times and the bad."
The book tells the of how Don and his siblings, Glenn, Carol, Lillie, Flora, Alice, Eula, Eunice, Moses, Henry Jr. and Charles, grew into the adults they are today.
"I really wanted to get my story out there for my daughter because I think it is interesting," McNeal said. "And I hope I can give other people some inspiration in life."
The book was published through Power Publishing and sells for $9.95. For more information or to purchase McNeal's book, call (317) 347-1051 or send an email to

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