Okeechobee’s Neal named to all-America freshman team

Lake Okeechobee News/Richard Marion
Former Brahman Evan Neal sits at a table with his parents at Okeechobee High School on Dec. 19, 2018, shortly before announcing his decision to play football at the University of Alabama

ORLANDO — The University of Alabama Crimson Tide concluded its 2019 season with a 35-16 win over the University of Michigan in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1. A former Okeechobee Brahman played a crucial role in anchoring the offensive line for Alabama throughout their season.

Evan Neal started on the offensive line for the Crimson Tide this year at left guard as a true freshman and proved to be a dominant presence in the trenches.

Neal started every game this season for Alabama at left guard. During his first start on Aug. 31 against Duke, Neal did not allow a sack and did not have any missed assignments on 68 snaps played. The Crimson Tide would go on to roll up 512 yards of total offense in a 42-3 blowout.

Throughout the year the Tide’s offensive line has surrendered only 12 sacks in 381 pass attempts. And the Alabama offense ranked second overall in the nation in scoring.

Neal’s performance throughout the season has earned him multiple spots on All-America teams. Evan earned Freshman All-America accolades from USA Today, 247Sports and ESPN.com. He was also selected to the Freshman All-SEC squad by the league coaches.

Expectations were high for Neal before his college career began. Coming out of high school, Neal was seen as the best offensive tackle in the nation and ranked as a five-star offensive tackle by all major recruiting outlets. Unsurprisingly, he was highly sought after by multiple college programs, receiving offers from Florida State, Georgia, Florida, Miami and more.

Neal announced his decision to attend the University of Alabama last year in the gymnasium at Okeechobee High School, surrounded by family and friends.

“Okeechobee is important to me because this is where I came up,” said Neal last year on why announcing in Okeechobee was important to him. “I want to see everyone in Okeechobee succeed. From the kids to the adults, I just want to see everyone prosper in my hometown. I want to show kids here in Okeechobee that they can do the same thing I’m doing. It’s not impossible. I remember growing up here and watching college football and wondering if I would be able to do that one day. I just want to be a testament to the kids here that you can do it.”

Neal earned praise from his head coach Nick Saban ahead of the Citrus Bowl.

“Evan Neal has done a really good job for us at left guard,” said Saban during the Citrus Bowl press conference on Dec. 31. “True freshman. I think he’s going to get really, really challenged in this game because of the complexity and multiple stunts. Their front they’re going to throw at us is going to challenge our entire offensive line.”

In the Citrus Bowl the Alabama offensive line gave up zero sacks and the Crimson Tide racked up 480 yards of offense.

“Evan has done a great job for us all year long,” Saban concluded in the press conference. “We’re really pleased with his progress, and I think he has a very bright future.”

Richard Marion is a staff writer and photographer at Lake Okeechobee News and can be reached at rmarion@newszap.com.

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