Good friends with players currently on Auburn's team from the Mobile area, McNeil says that the feeling of home he had at Auburn was something in the end he just couldn't shake.
"That's real big because coming from being a senior in high school to being a freshman in college is a big transition," McNeil says. "I'm wanting to go somewhere so I can have a smooth transition and focus on my studies and football. Those are two important things.
"You definitely want to get your degree because if you don't do that all the connections you have from your school can't help you after you get done playing ball. You could get injured, anything could pop up. I'm just blessed to have this opportunity and I have finally found my school. I'm ready to go."
One of the top safety prospects in the country, McNeil was courted by many of the top programs in the country and says that he had well over 40 offers on the table before deciding on Auburn. While immediate playing time was something in Auburn's favor it still came back to future happiness and success on the field for McNeil.
"The system that they run and the need for safeties," McNeil two more big reasons to choose Auburn, he says. "I feel that I can come in and help them as a freshman and make a big impact. I have family down there along with Gabe McKenzie, Sen'Derrick Marks, Antonio Coleman, players like that I grew up with. I know them and played with them. We have already bonded and chemistry means a lot.
"Plus, we're going to have one of the Top 10 recruiting classes in the country. That's big. You can have all the great coaches in the world, but if you don't have players you can't win."
Safety Michael McNeil is a physical player who has the size and speed to help Auburn's secondary immediately.
A fellow Davidson Warrior himself, McKenzie is the player who gets much of the credit for how recruiting is currently handled at Davidson High. Choosing to be honest and straightforward in the recruiting process two years ago, McKenzie showed the way for players like McNeil and for that he says he's appreciative.
"Gabe handled himself well and he never got the big head," McNeil says. "Gabe was always Gabe. He's a laid back and calm guy. He handled it well. He found a school that best suits him and he got on the field as a freshman and made an impact."
Early on in the process Florida State was the team to beat for McNeil and he says that as long as he can remember he always wanted to play for the Seminoles. That began to change as McNeil became more familiar with Auburn's defensive systems and coaching staff, including James Willis and Will Muschamp. He says that for much of the last month he has been bouncing back and forth between the Tigers and Seminoles with Tennessee and Alabama even moving into the picture at times, but in the end it was Auburn all the way.
"I would probably have to say a couple of days ago," McNeil comments on when he knew in his heart it was Auburn. "I drew up the depth charts and I would go over the schemes the coaches would be running. I wanted to see which schemes they run that give you the best opportunity to get on the field.
"If they are running a one-safety look with all linebackers in the box then that is less of a chance getting in the game. If they are running six defensive backs when they're in four wide outs then I'm going to be on the field. It's just common sense.
"Coach Willis has been my recruiting coordinator so I have been talking to him since early in my junior year," McNeil adds. "Me and him built a good relationship outside the process. Me and him are real good friends. He tells me about his playing days because he played at Auburn. Coach Muschamp stepped in during the middle of things. I started learning about him and how he conducts his defense after that."
McNeil is just the latest piece of the puzzle for an Auburn recruiting class that looks likely to be rated in the Top 10 in the country when all is said and done on signing day. Already friends with several commitments, including Enrique Davis, McNeil says that he didn't choose Auburn because of friendships made during the process though and he's anxious to get his Auburn career under way.
"Me and Enrique have been cool since junior day last year at Alabama," McNeil says. "We stayed in contact since then, but I'm not making a decision based on another player. Anything can happen. He could end up signing somewhere else. I feel that Auburn is the best place for me going in. I want to make an impact as a freshman. I want to be a Freshman All-American, All-SEC, all that."