Path to the Draft: Chris Neild

The life of a nose tackle is often one of unsung praise and limited recognition, but that hasn't been the case, at least recently, for former West Virginia wedge-man Chris Neild.

When nearly every down requires you to take on more than one blocker at a time, it doesn't leave a lot of opportunities to make plays. That's a nose tackle's true duty --kill two birds with one stone and let loose the hounds of war. Chris Neild was masterful in those duties during his career at WVU, and was one of the linchpins in a defense that ranked among the nation's best in 2010. All of those sacks recorded? Neild helped facilitate them by taking bodies out of the equation. All of those turnovers? Helped to rush poor offensive decisions because of his frontal and lateral assault.

Proof that he's recognized by his peers and professionals is marked with a first team All-Big East selection his senior year, a second team All-Big East selection his junior year, a Senior Bowl invitation in January and an NFL combine invitation this past February. Though Mountaineer fans know Neild's name well, it's only now that he's beginning to get rightful recognition in other circles.

Neild gave a strong effort at the combine and finished tied in the top 10 in the bench press with 30 reps of 225-pounds. He then turned around and put in a strong showing at West Virginia's pro day event, where over half the league's teams sent scouts . It even earned him a private workout that day with a representative of the Buffalo Bills.

"I feel pretty confident," Neild said of his efforts between the end of his senior season until now. "I've prepared really well. I think I left a good impression at the Senior Bowl, the combine and pro day. So now it's all in the hands of fate. I've been talking to several teams on the phone. It's mostly just to see where I'm at and how my health is."

Now all Neild has left to prepare for is the one game that no athlete enjoys playing -- the waiting game . The margin of draft positioning for Neild is wide, and very much dependent on how the first couple of rounds play out. Everything changes on draft day, and expectations can quickly become jumbled in the reality of draft runs on certain positions and unexpected picks. Team owners, managers and scouts scheme around their wishlists and project where those players might go, but those plans can quickly fall by the wayside on draft day, as some players are unexpectedly plucked right from under them and some players fall beyond their projected billing. With only seven rounds worth of picks and the time between each pick cut down, teams must be more diligent. This is no longer a tiring 14-round affair where darts are being thrown in the latter half of the draft due to the talent pool thinning.

To even be considered a potential draft pick is an honor for any college football player. Neild feels like he could go at any time, but isn't too concerned if his name doesn't get called .

"I've been hearing a lot of things . The thing is nobody really knows and I really don't know . I'm guessing it's going to be in the mid-to-late rounds, but I could also be an undrafted free agent. I'm expecting the worst, but hoping for the best It's how I keep viewing it."

Neild shows no signs of undue pessimism or overt optimism and instead tries to maintain an "anyway the wind blows" mentality about the draft. After all, he feels his body of work in his senior season when coupled with his offseason work ethic in preparation for the draft have done enough to warrant him firm consideration.

"I think what I did this past season should speak for itself. And I think it's done enough to get some teams' attention. There are a lot of three-man front teams in the NFL and that's what I'm used to playing. I'll play anywhere, but I'm most comfortable on the interior. "

Though Neild doesn't have the prototypical height and arm length of a two-gap NFL interior lineman, he certainly has shown the strength and instincts to be a quality tackle on an odd-man front. He feels like he's had some of the best teachers to prepare him for life in the big leagues as well .

"Coach Kirelawich and Coach Casteel are great teachers. I learned so much from them . I tried to soak in all of the knowledge they had and about the defense they run and I'd like to think I performed how they wanted me to."

The waiting game will be over shortly, as the first round of the draft begins tonight. Then it's just a matter of which day, what round, what team and what pick will hold the name "Chris Neild" with it.

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