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From Wiregrass to Middle East to the Rockies, McNeal’s journey leads to Tuscaloosa

Alabama walk-on tight end Coby McNeal has had quite the roller coaster of a journey to get to don the Crimson and White. For one, the 26-year-old McNeal grew up a fan of Alabama’s biggest rival, the Auburn Tigers.

McNeal attended Ashford Academy in Dothan where he was a three-sport athlete in football, basketball and baseball and graduated in 2015.

Instead of going to college out of high school, McNeal elected to take a different path, enlisting in the military. McNeal served six years in the Marine Corps, deployed to Australia and the Middle East before pursuing a business degree at Colorado State in 2022.

While serving, he was an aviation engineer and crew chief on a V-22 Osprey.

Despite never having played the position, he made the team at CSU walking on as a defensive lineman.

On the position switch and transitioning from the military to football, he told the Dothan Eagle how difficult that was.

“I was still in pretty good shape coming from the Marine Corps to football, but football shape is different from Marine Corps shape, that’s for sure, especially down in the trenches in the D-line,” he said. “It was a pretty rough learning curve especially since I’m coming from not playing football in seven years to a position I’ve never played before and just getting thrown into a D-I program.”

Having met his fiancée, an Alabama graduate in Australia, he transferred to Alabama after a year at CSU and walked on to the Crimson Tide roster as a tight end.

In high school, McNeal played multiple positions including quarterback and was described as extremely difficult to tackle when he got the ball in open space.

Though he has not yet seen any action for the Tide, McNeal has had an inspirational journey nonetheless.

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