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McNeal inducted into Sports HOF

By By Adam Prestridge
Former college and NFL football standout Don McNeal has accomplished nearly everything an athlete can accomplish throughout their career.
The Atmore native has played at all levels on the gridiron and has been successful at each level. For his success, McNeal was inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame Saturday evening at the Birmingham Ballroom at the Sheraton Birmingham Hotel.
“It is a great feat for me to accomplish and it is a reflection on the number of people who have helped me along the way,” McNeal told the Advance in December when the inductees were announced. “I am not crazy, I don’t believe I got this honor on my own. I had the right people in my life to lead me to success. My family, my teachers and my coaches always believed in me.”
McNeal and the seven other inductees making up the Class of 2008 pushed the induction class to 275 athletes since 1969, according to a press release. He was one of six inductees in the modern category. Also making the cut were Gregg Carr, Condredge Holloway, Steve Lowery, Don Mincher and Oliver Robinson. The modern category is for athletes from 1968 and later.
Sim Byrd and Jerry Wilson are part of the Class of 2008 in the old timers category, which is for athletes who are 70 years old or came to fame earlier than 1967.
McNeal was part of two national championship football teams during his time at the University of Alabama (’79 and ’80) and was named the Miami Dolphins “Player of the Year” twice (’82 and ’84). In both those years the Dolphins played in the Super Bowl. He is also a member of the Dolphins Silver Anniversary Team.
McNeal, who grew up in McCullough, graduated from Escambia County High School in 1976.
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.
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 and other stories of McNeal’s life can be found in his newly published book, “Home Team Advantage.”
Below are highlights of the other inductees:

  • Sim Byrd, a Montgomery native, led the Troy State Trojans to the NAIA National Championship in 1968.
    Also, Joseph E. Gibbs was named the 2008 Distinguished American Sportsman. He has been a leader in the cable and cellular industries over the last two and half decades. He was the creator, co-founder, president and chief executive officer of TGC, Inc. (The Golf Channel) for 10 years.
    (Troy Messenger sports editor Matthew Nascone contributed to this story.)