By Jeff Shearer
AUBURN, Ala. - Tiger Walking into Jordan-Hare Stadium before Auburn’s season opener brought back all the feelings for Marcus McNeill, the Tigers’ honorary captain against Georgia Southern.
“It was a rush going down that Tiger Walk,” said McNeill, a four-year offensive line starter from 2002-05. “You see the stadium in the distance, and you see nothing but your crowd and your home team waiting to greet you. All the high fives, all the little kids, and the people in wheelchairs. You get to see them, shake their hands and see that excitement on their faces. It’s like nothing in the world that you can explain.”
After Tiger Walk, the former All-SEC and All-America offensive lineman delivered a pregame pep talk.
“I got a chance to fire the team up before the game,” McNeill said. “I gave them the best I could. They have a great coach in Coach Malzahn, and he gets them fired up and ready to go week in and week out. I just tried to add a little bit of flavor to it.
“I told them make sure that they grasp the moment, and stay in the moment. A lot of times people get lost, trying to play the whole season at once. You’ve got to play it one game at a time and one play at a time. For the most part, they looked great. I think it’s something they can build on, so I’m glad I was able to give that talk before the game.”
McNeill, who did not allow a sack in his final 43 Auburn games, received a loud ovation when he was introduced during the first half.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I could feel the energy in the building. I think everybody was excited about the home opener.”
During Auburn’ 41-7 win, McNeill, who played in the Pro Bowl during the first two of his six professional seasons in San Diego, paid close attention to Auburn’s offensive line.
“They looked good,” McNeill said. “When you get out there, you look at that O-line and they look impressive. To have some experience on that O-line, and have some of that ability they have with that athleticism. They could go a long way.
“Playing O-line, you’ve always got to have that cohesiveness. It starts right there in the middle with the center, and I think they have a good one. I think we’ve got a good group all the way around.”
McNeill lives in Atlanta, where he enjoys spending time with his 9-year-old son. His daughter is due to arrive in November.
“These days, I’m a full-time father,” he said. “I spend most of my time trying to raise my son. I have a little girl on the way. I’m enjoying the time I’m able to spend with them. I also spend a lot of time volunteering for youth initiatives, and planning community development projects in metro Atlanta, where I’m from.”
A towering figure at 6-foot-9, McNeill credits Auburn with helping prepare him for success during and after his NFL career.
“I got my wings,” he said. “Going to Auburn and being able to join up with the War Eagle family was a perfect fit for me. I just represent that everywhere I go in life and every time I see my family out there in the streets, I always give them a ‘War Eagle’ or a high five. We keep it pushing to make sure we’re running the world, ha.”
Jeff Shearer is a Senior Writer at AuburnTigers.com. Follow him on Twitter: Follow @jeff_shearer
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