1) He wasn’t expecting 2 sacks in his debut.
Neild knew going into the game that he’d get about 10 snaps, in a rotation with Barry Cofield. In his entire four-year career at West Virginia, Neild recorded 6 sacks. So he wasn’t necessarily thinking he’d get a third of that total in a limited role during his NFL debut.
“I just went out there and tried to do my job,” he said. “I just go out there and play. Whatever comes about, comes about.”
2) He’s now destined for Canton.
“I told him at this pace he’ll be a Hall of Famer,” Cofield said. “Man, I’m so happy for him. He’s a guy who you don’t even know if he’s gonna make the team, and now he’s out there making big plays against my old team. I gave him a big hug. I’m excited for him.”
“You don’t expect that from a rookie nose tackle coming off the bench, seventh-round pick, going out there and putting up Pro Bowl-type numbers,” Lorenzo Alexander added. “Two sacks, a forced fumble? I mean, those type of numbers get you to the Pro Bowl.”
3) He has an enormous beard.
After shaving his enormous beard in May, Neild started growing it back, and it’s now enormous again.
“It’s like Bam Bam Bigelow, that’s the look he goes for,” Alexander said.
“He looks like a Mountaineer,” Cofield said. “That’s why I think everyone assumes he’s from West Virginia. Come to find out that he’s from New Jersey. But he looks like a Mountain Man.”
“I was kind of messing with him the other day, telling him [Brett] Keisel already has the long beard so maybe he needs to do something different with it,” Kedric Golston said. “So I told him maybe he could just grow everything out and just let it all connect and turn into a werewolf.”
“The caveman beard?” Stephen Bowen asked. “I think it’s a little out of hand, I think he needs to trim it down a little bit. He looks like a white Rick Ross. That’s what he looks like. Just start calling him Boss.”
4) No future plans to shave.
As for Neild, he promised to shave if he got drafted, which is why the beard disappeared, and he doesn’t have a super interesting reason why he grew it back.
“Just to do it,” he said. “I’ll be honest. Why not? Why not?”
And the future?
“It feels good now,” he said, when someone besides me asked about the beard, if you can believe that. “I’ve got my helmet and chin strap in the right place right now; if I trim it then I’ve got to adjust it again, so I don’t want to go through that. I might try to get something going through the chin strap, but that’s gonna take a lot of work.”
5) He actually messed up on his first sack.
“I had a missed assignment,” he told reporters, repeating the anecdote several times to make sure everyone knew. “I didn’t hear the blitz change, so luckily it turned out for the best.”
How did a missed assignment turn into his first NFL sack?
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Ask that offensive line. I don’t know. I don’t know. You know, it’s loud out there, and that was my first actual game. I just tried to hear what I could; I didn’t hear the blitz change, but it ended up well.”
“I don’t know man, I think he stole one of my moves for sure,” Cofield said. “That little juke move, same thing I do in practice, man. So he’s a fast learner.”
6) Something about being hard-working and humble.
“He’s a guy that came in, listens real well, real eager to learn, works hard, and I think kind of fit right in to what we think good defensive linemen are,” Golston told me. “A team guy, a humble guy, just wants to learn and work.”
“Real laid back, cool, everybody likes him, he fits in with everybody,” Bowen said.
“These rookies that they brought in, I think they did a great job finding guys that have great ability as well as character,” Alexander said. “He’s just like Ryan [Kerrigan]: very humble kid, ready to work, blue collar, listens, and when he gets out there and he’s obviously making plays.”
7) He was almost Mr. Irrelevant.
Neild was taken one pick from the bottom of April’s NFL Draft. Those guys don’t usually make game-changing plays in the first week of their first season.
“These rookies,” Cofield marveled. Making somebody in the front office look smart.”
“I’ve got a lot to live up to next week,” Neild joked.