Getting To Know A Draft Pick: Mike Neal

To help Packers fans get to know the newest members of the team better, Packers.com caught up with each of the seven 2010 draft picks for an extended Q&A about their background, both on and off the field. The interviews are being posted as a weekly series, continuing today with second-round selection Mike Neal of Purdue.

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Where is your hometown, and what is the most interesting thing about it?
I am originally from Gary, Ind., but went to Merrillville High School. Most people know it for the big mall named Westfield Southlake Mall, so that is probably the biggest and most interesting thing around there. It is just a big shopping center. If you get off the highway on U.S. 30 you are going to see a strip of shopping centers. Most people who aren't from Indiana or from the region come up there because it is good shopping.

Do you have any pre-game rituals or superstitions?
I am very superstitious, which is probably a good and a bad thing because I am very religious at the same time and you're not supposed to believe in superstitions. I usually come in the locker room and shower before getting taped. As soon as I get taped I start putting my stuff on. I usually listen to gospel and read the Bible before the game, every game. I got a Bible on my iPod, so I usually read the Bible. I pray. I carry a little bottle of holy oil and bless my body. The man's gotta protect me and keep me safe. That is usually my pre-game ritual.

What has been your greatest accomplishment on the football field?
Today making it to the NFL , honestly. I mean there are a lot of accomplishments you can go through, some people making All-Big Ten or All-American in college. I think when it is all said and done being able to make it to the NFL has been my biggest accomplishment on the football field. Just me being here is the biggest accomplishment I have achieved.

What's the most memorable football game you've ever been a part of, be it Pop Warner, high school or college?
We played Ohio State (last year) and they were ranked No. 7 and we beat them. Nobody expected us to beat them and everybody thought it was a fluke. We flat out beat them. They said they didn't play good and I don't think that was the case. We out-schemed them and we beat them.  Our fans rushed the field and that was the first time I had beat a ranked opponent. So that was a big accomplishment. It was a total team effort. We made the right play calls and we did everything right and it ended up panning out for us.

Who's the most influential coach you've ever played for and why?
Coach Terrell Williams. He was my defensive line coach (at Purdue). It gives me goosebumps when I talk about him. He is like a second father to me. He believed in me. It is hard for me to say that somebody believed in me more than I believe in myself. I think I believe in myself a whole lot more than other people do. I talk to him every day and he helped me accomplish everything I can on the football field.

What in particular makes him stand out to you?
Everything you would think a father would be like, that is what he is like. He is a football coach. My biological dad is there for me than anybody, so is my mom, I have a real close family, but he is like having a second father. He was there no matter what I needed. If you needed somebody to talk to he would text message me early in the morning asking me or telling me this is what you need to do to be successful or come see me or you need to get better at this. He just pushed me to my limit.

Who is the most interesting person in your family?
My younger brother, who is 17 years old. He is an amazing kid. He does everything he can to be good and he looks up to me, which speaks volumes. The kid does everything, he can dance, sing and he is the entertainment of the family. If nobody is talking, he is the person that is going to say something to make everybody laugh. I love Matthew to death.

Does Matthew play football and is he going to make it to the NFL?
He actually got a full-ride scholarship to play at Toledo. As of right now he is going to take it, but he is probably going to have other Division I schools looking at him. He is going to be good, if he keeps putting in the work that he is now. It is incredible how much work he puts in. I think I am a workaholic, but he sees me and works a lot harder than I did at that age. I think he has the opportunity.

Outside of anything in sports, what's your proudest accomplishment in life?
Being a college graduate. I think that people underestimate how hard it is to be a student-athlete at the collegiate level. I think it is extremely hard. You don't get too many that leave with a degree and make it to the NFL. I think that was one of my biggest accomplishments, going five years and getting my degree in health and fitness.

What was the reason you chose to study health and fitness?
I think that knowing about the body and health and fitness field gives you an advantage on the football field. I think the more knowledgeable you are about how your body works can give you an advantage in what you can do on the football field.

What are your personal goals for this rookie season?
My personal goal is to be a contributor to my team in any type of way, whether it is as a starter or a backup. Just get on the field and make as much happen when I am on there. They pay me to be productive and get as many tackles and sacks as I can. To be able to come in and fill a role they think I can and exceed my expectations.

What do you think will be the toughest part about your first NFL training camp?
I think the grind of it. In college you only go through two straight weeks of training camp, where here it is almost like four. Here you have the preseason added into it and then the length of the meetings. The meetings will definitely be a big adjustment and then adding in the preseason games will be a big adjustment for me.

When you were a kid, did you dream of growing up to be a football player, or did you dream of something else?
Not at all. I dreamed of being an NBA basketball player. I tell people all the time that Kobe Bryant is my favorite basketball player. I tell people all the time that when I really started paying attention to basketball it was Kobe. I was a [Michael] Jordan fan, but it was always Kobe. I didn't care what anybody said it was Kobe Bryant. I thought I was going to go to the NBA, but that didn't happen. That was probably one of my other dreams.

At what point were you sure you were going to be in the NFL someday?
God stepped in and showed me something different. He showed me football and the weight room, and it ended up being better for me than basketball. I always thought mentally I had an opportunity when I got into college. I always knew that as long as I played college football I could be successful. I wanted to be the best person I could be, the best player, the best defensive tackle in the Big Ten. I knew as long as I kept reaching for those goals that anything was obtainable. I don't think that anything is impossible because I live with God first. I knew that when I was in college it was a goal I could obtain.

Was there a football player you idolized growing up?
Not necessarily. There were a lot of football players that I liked to watch prior to coming to Green Bay. There wasn't really anybody I idolized. I think I idolized people who were successful and I try to mold my life after people who have been successful. I think maybe Michael Jordan. I study a lot of things, like inspirational books and pastors and how they lived their lives. Pastors are some of the most successful people in the world. I looked at Kobe Bryant, Reggie White and Walter Payton. I looked at everybody who had success -- Tommie Harris from the Bears, Darnell Dawkins from the Cardinals, players like that. Now that I am here I look at Cullen Jenkins, to see how successful these guys are and what they do and what separates them to be the best, which is what I try to do.

When did you attend your first NFL game, and what do you remember most about it?
One time last year in Kansas City, to watch my roommate Alex Magee, who plays defensive end for Kansas City Chiefs. He got drafted last year in the third round and I think it was cool to see a guy I lived with for five years play. I didn't really care about anybody else on the field. I just wanted to see what he did when he got in, because we were roommates and played on the college field together and I was more excited for him than anything else. It was against the Denver Broncos and I remember that because (Denver QB) Kyle Orton played for Purdue.

What has been the most exciting part about being a pro football player so far?
Just being a Packer. There is nothing else you can say about it. It is a dream come true. I am in the NFL and this is what you dream of. You have a chance to be a part of history when you come into this town. You are a part of history, so let's continue to make it.

What are your hobbies? What do you like to do when you are not playing football?
Go to church, read the Bible and go to the movies. I am more of a loner person. I don't like to be around a lot of people and I like to be by myself. I might go to church or the movies with C.J. (Wilson) who is similar to how I am in how we lived and grew up. I am not a big fan of hanging around a lot of people and I like to do things by myself. I like to fish and hang out with my family.

What do you want Packer fans to know about you as a person?
That I am going to work as hard as I can. A lot of people questioned why Green Bay reached out to take me in the second round, but as long as I can prove to somebody why they reached out and took me for a good reason, then I think that I am doing something right. I am a real religious person and I live my life through God first. It says in the Bible, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all things will be given to you." I think the more I strive to be a Christian person to see God, the more God will give me the desires in my heart. That sums me up in a nutshell, and I am here and I am not going to leave until they push me out of this place.

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