McNeill is one of three candidates who hopes to hear his name called during the ESPN college football awards show where he is a candidate for the Outland Trophy, which is presented annually to the nation’s top interior lineman.
“When I decided to come back for my senior year, one of my goals was to try to win the Outland Trophy,” says McNeill, who on Wednesday won the Jacobs Trophy as the Southeastern Conference’s top blocker.
A native of Decatur, Ga., McNeill headed back home to the Atlanta area earlier in the week to go shopping for a new suit for the television show. He notes that he believes he picked out a good one--a size 60 long for the six-foot-nine, 338-pounder who got a lot of compliments on his stylish white summer suit he wore to the SEC Media Days in July.
“Hopefully, I will have the cleanest look there,” he says with a laugh, noting he is trying to be stylish but not too flashy.
It’s already been an award-filled week for McNeill. He was named to the Sports Illustrated All-American team and repeated as a first team All-SEC pick. He made the all-conference squads announced by the league’s coaches as well as the Associated Press.
“Becoming All-SEC and All-American were two of my goals along with our team goals,” the tackle says of his senior season after he decided not to enter the pro draft after his junior year.
McNeill’s Tigers finished the 2005 regular season 9-2 with one more game left, a Jan. 2nd date in the Capital One Bowl vs. Wisconsin. McNeill and the Tigers were hoping for a Sugar Bowl berth, which would have meant a repeat of their 2004 SEC title. However, the big tackle says he and his teammates figure the trip to Orlando is a good reward, too.
“I haven’t heard any of the players complaining about going to Orlando,” he says. “We had a really good time on our last trip to the bowl here.” Auburn defeated Penn State 13-9 his freshman season.
McNeill, who first broke into the starting lineup on a part-time basis as a freshman in 2002, says he has continued to work on his technique and fundamentals as a senior to try to become a better tackle. His play was one of the reasons why the Tigers had the SEC’s top offense this year.
Head coach Tommy Tuberville says the offensive line in general was a big reason for the offensive success. McNeill agrees.
“I would say this is the best offensive line we have had in my four years at Auburn,” he notes. “I think we really gelled together as a unit. We are brothers out there on the field. Everybody is working together as one with no jealously.”
Marcus McNeill does a radio interview in his pre-labor look at SEC Media Days. He hopes to hear his name called on the awards show that will be televised on Thursday beginning at 6 p.m. CST on ESPN.
Although he has tremendous size and excellent quickness as well as all-around athletic ability, the big tackle says that is only part of the equation for being successful in college football. “The little things can take you a long way,” he says.
“You have to have fundamentals and technique to play this game as an offensive lineman. It is not all about athletic ability out there.”
McNeill is joined by two other finalists for the Outland Trophy Award. Haloti Ngata of Oregon is a junior defensive tackle and Minnesota center Greg Elsinger is a senior.
The Football Writers Association of America has annually selected the winner of the award since 1946. It is the third-oldest award in major college football behind the Heisman Trophy and Maxwell Award. Two Auburn players, Tracy Rocker (1988) and Zeke Smith (1958), have won the honor named after Dr. John Outland, an 1890s football star at the University of Pennsylvania.
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