Former University of Kentucky football offensive lineman Dan Neal, who spent 11 seasons in the National Football League with the Baltimore Colts and the Chicago Bears, was inducted into the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The official induction ceremony took place at the Palace Theater in Louisville during the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 10th Anniversary Celebration weekend.
Originally from Corbin, Ky., Neal played his high school football at Atherton High School in Louisville. Neal got his start as an offensive lineman with the Wildcats, lettering in 1971-72, before being drafted in the 11th round by the Baltimore Colts in 1973. After two seasons with the Colts, Neal’s career continued in Chicago with the Bears, where he played center and blocked for Walter Payton from 1975-1983. Following a back injury, Neal began a distinguished coaching career with the Philadelphia Eagles, the Arizona Cardinals, the New Orleans Saints, the Tennessee Titans and the Buffalo Bills. He now owns and operates Coach’s Fitness Club, with locations in Louisville and Prospect.
Neal was introduced by Brian McCaskey, senior director of business development for the Bears. McCaskey spoke of Neal continuing Chicago’s history of outstanding centers, highlighted by his blocking for Payton, who became the leading rusher in NFL history. Then, McCaskey brought Neal to the stage for the acceptance speech.
“I thank the Kentucky Pro Football Hall of Fame for inducting me,” Neal began. ”If you look up the word ‘miracle’ in the dictionary, it says ‘an effect or extraordinary event that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause.’ Who would have thought that a boy from Atherton High School would have made it here? That in itself is a miracle. I thank God for what he has bestowed on me.”
Neal also discussed what it meant to block for the NFL’s all-time rushing leader. “Have you ever been fortunate enough to reach for that rainbow or catch that shooting star? That’s what I had when I blocked for Walter Payton,” Neal said.
Neal is was inducted into the Hall of Fame along with current Tennessee Titans kicker Rob Bironas, Kansas City Chiefs star Mo Moorman, San Francisco 49ers lineman Bubba Paris and Super Bowl winner Chris Redman.
Along with Neal, UK stars La’Rod King, Ryan Tydlacka, Danny Trevathan, Larry Warford and Winston Guy were honored after being named to the All-Commonwealth Collegiate Team last year.