"I actually had a death in the family," McNeill says about why he was late getting to the event on Monday. "My grandmother died so I got in real late.
"I did a lot of of traveling that morning and didn't get a chance to rest. I was up until about 3:45 that morning so it was kind of a difficult time, but I knew I wanted to get down here to the Senior Bowl and compete in front of the scouts."
The 6-9, 337-pounder notes that having the opportunity to learn from the San Francisco '49ers staff, which is coaching the South team, makes the all-star game experience even more beneficial. "Working with professional coaches this week is something that I am going to have up on a lot of the offensive linemen coming into the league next year," McNeill says. "A lot of guys coming from college wouldn't have had that experience, but we got that experience. The North team got it with Tennessee (Titans) and we got it with the '49ers."
The tackle goes through a pass blocking drill at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.
McNeill adds that even in his first few days of professional football experience he has already found out that there are new things to learn on the next level. "Probably just switching up my stance a little bit," he says about what '49ers' offensive line coach George Warhop has been working with him on in practice. "I am a taller, more lanky guy and they kind of want me to narrow my base up a little bit, but that is all going to come with change.
"I really didn't have to do that at Auburn," he continues. "I was pretty good getting out of my set, but going to the next level they are going to switch me to another stance because I have got to get out just that much quicker and the defensive ends are going to be coming harder."
He does note, however, that most of the things he learned at Auburn are really helping him excel this week. "Coach (Hugh) Nall taught me a lot of technique and every line coach is big on technique," he says. "Even though we switched a little bit going from Coach Nall's technique to the '49ers technique, it is all pretty much the same thing, angles, getting your hands right and moving your feet."
The biggest question that has surrounded McNeill this week has been his back, which caused him to miss practice time during his freshman and sophomore seasons. However, the big lineman says that there shouldn't be a question at all.
"My back hasn't been bothering me," he explains. "I haven't had to go to the training room. I am not slumped over anywhere. I am having a good time, my back is feeling great the same as the last two years and hopefully they saw that this week."
Despite any question, McNeill is easily one of the best tackle prospects in the draft, and he says he has been getting a lot of attention from NFL teams during the week. "The Falcons, the Chiefs, the Chargers...I have met with about six or seven people so far," he notes. "A lot of teams have been showing me interest and hopefully this will be the first step and the combine will be the next one."
McNeill and the rest of the South squad practiced in shorts on Thursday in preparation for Saturday's game, which kicks off at 3 p.m. CST.
McNeill adds that if one those teams, or any others, happen to step up to the microphone and announce him as their selection in the first round it would be a dream come true. "Definitely in the first round," he says about his goals for the draft. "I feel like I worked hard in my college career and to go out in the first round, that is a real big thing."
Even though this week's Senior Bowl is serious business, McNeill says he has had fun as well. "Just chillin' with the fellas and talkin' junk to everybody, kind of just running around and having a good time outside of practice," he says.
McNeill adds that he has enjoyed getting to spend some extra time with his Auburn teammates, and says he is glad they have made a good impression on the NFL scouts. "It is a big thing," he says about playing in the game with Travis Williams, Devin Aromashodu, Anthony Mix and Ben Obomanu.
All in all, McNeill says he couldn't be happier about where he is in his career and his life heading into Saturday's Senior Bowl. "Yeah, I am definitely happy with my decision," he says about staying at Auburn to play as a senior. "I am glad I came back to get a little more experience and get another year under my belt. Now, I am ready to take another step into the league."