Neal More Than Tower of Power

Ridiculed as a reach by some fans, Purdue's Mike Neal combines quickness, character and production. We talked to Neal at the Packers' rookie camp, college scouting director John Dorsey and Neal's former position coach for our latest exclusive draft profile.

Since he was drafted, the seemingly superhuman feats of strength of Mike Neal have been the overriding story line surrounding the Green Bay Packers' second-round draft pick.

"I don't know that they have enough room on the bar for what he can squat," said Neal's former defensive line coach, Terrell Williams, who now holds the same job for Mike Sherman at Texas A&M.

Neal, however, isn't nearly as impressed with his 510-pound bench press and 610-pound squat. This is the National Football League, not World's Strongest Man. Considering the name of the game for a defensive end in a 3-4 defense is tying up blockers and creating double teams to free up the linebackers, Neal's brute strength seems to make him a good fit for the Packers' scheme. But Neal practically took offense to a reporter's question about being a "one-trick pony" whose main skill-set is holding strong at the point of attack.

"Strength don't matter" as much as an on-the-field accomplishments that are evident on the film, Neal said.

"I don't care about the (weightlifting) numbers," he added. "I really don't care. I want to be able to use what I have. There's plenty of people who can bench over 500 but there's not a lot of people who can come on the field and play football. That's what it comes down to — using what I have to my advantage. I really don't care about the weight room records."

While Neal's strength is his strength, he's not just a muscle-bound strongman. A former standout basketball player in Merrillville, Ind., who harbored NBA dreams until his height plateaued at 6-foot-3, Neal has been able to maintain his quickness by playing hoops.

"Not only is he as strong as an ox but he's as quick as a cat," Packers director of college scouting John Dorsey told Packer Report. "I think he's got an excellent first step. I think he's got the ability to get in the backfield and be disruptive. He has enough length and size to play big and hold the point when he has to, but I think he also gives you another element. When you slide those big guys down, he'll be able to rush the passer."

"He's not a stiff guy," Williams added. "He moves around really well. Usually, you have guys that are just weightlifters. Mike's not just a weightlifter."

With starters Cullen Jenkins and Johnny Jolly entrenched as the starters and last year's No. 1 pick, B.J. Raji, able to play every spot on the defensive line, Neal figures to play a limited role as a rookie. Where Neal can provide an immediate impact is during pass-rushing situations. Of the Packers' 37 sacks last season, only 6.5 were provided by defensive linemen. Of those, Jenkins had 4.5, with Jolly and Raji getting one apiece.

Neal's history of getting to the quarterback is why he disagrees with the notion that he'll be a "one-trick pony." As a full-time starter as a junior and senior, Neal had 5.5 sacks in each season. It will be up to defensive line coach Mike Trgovac to turn Neal's pass-rushing potential into pressures, hits and sacks.

"They slide protect a lot in the Big Ten, so it's more of an effort sack," Neal said of his college production "You don't have no fancy pass-rush moves. It's just get to the quarterback. Don't stop your feet. That's pretty much how they coached it at Purdue. Getting to the quarterback, it's a little technique but it's more effort and hustle and want-to."

While the Packers have worries about Jolly's future — his frequently delayed trial for alleged possession of codeine is scheduled to begin on May 21 — they'll have no such character concerns with Neal.

"He was one of my favorite players that I coached at Purdue, and the reason why he was one of my favorites was because you never had to worry about him off the field," Williams said. "He was around my wife and my family. My wife would always talk about how great a kid Mike was. You didn't have to worry about him doing anything stupid off the field."

Character or not, it comes down to talent. A lot of closet general managers think the Packers reached to get Neal, who didn't have a second-round "grade" by some media draft experts. Never mind that the team's scouts and coaches say Neal's skill-set mirrors the Packers' scheme. Never mind that the media gurus almost always eye defensive linemen as if they'd be lining up in a 4-3 scheme. Never mind that Neal was superb during the East-West and Senior Bowl all-star games.

"You know what? I've got to come in and prove it to the Packers, but I don't have to prove to anybody who think that they reached at me that I was a good draft pick," Neal said. "As long as I do what the coaches want me to do and I live up to my expectations, then I've done everything they asked me to do. Not everybody who watches football can turn on an end-zone (tape) and know what I'm supposed to do."

Williams saw it first-hand over Neal's productive final two seasons.

"There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that he's going to be a productive player and have a long, long career in the NFL," Williams said. "He's strong, he's got high character, he's willing to play through pain. He's just a guy that, when you're looking at defensive linemen and you're looking at the qualities and mental makeup of a defensive lineman, I think Mike Neal has all of that. The Packers got a good draft pick."

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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