McNeill carrying on N.C. State D-line 'Freak' tradition

Mark Armstrong Image
Thursday, July 23, 2020
McNeill carries on N.C. State's D-line Freak tradition
Hard work has paid off for the Wolfpack's Alim McNeill, and the mammoth defensive lineman is just "scratching the surface" of his potential.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- For the past several years, national college football writer Bruce Feldman (now at The Athletic) has released a list of the biggest physical freaks in the sport.

This year, there is only one representative from the Triangle -- former Sanderson star and current Wolfpack man-mountain Alim McNeill.

It wasn't always that way. Alim remembers his first college workout well.

"I dropped out of that run," he said. "I remember that because I was hurting!"

He's come a way since then. McNeill was gifted with some serious raw material, but it's what he's done with it since his arrival at NC State that landed him on the coveted "Freaks" list.

"A lot of hours, a lot of running and a lot of lifting has gone in to be able to make that list and to be able to create that special moment for me," McNeill said.


Pushing him the entire way has been NC State's strength coach Dantonio Burnette aka "Coach Thunder."

"When that list came out, I hit him up, and I said you know what? We have to really go to work now because now you have a bullseye on you, and people are going to be expecting certain things," Burnette said. "He's just scratching the surface to what he can be."

Burnette knows of what he speaks. This is the fourth consecutive year State has had a player on the "Freaks" list, following James Smith-Williams twice and Kentavius Street.

"You know, a lot of times things come so easy for him. I want him to step out of his comfort zone of being a guy, well it's easy for me," Burnette said. "Well, what can you do for your teammates? How can you pull your teammates up to the level of play that you're at?"

McNeill knows it, too.

"I've still got to put the work in to be able to produce on the field," he said.


He showed that on-field potential last year, racking up 7.5 tackles for loss including 5.5 sacks. His numbers in the gym are eye-popping: 440 pounds on the bench, a 640-pound squat and a 32-inch vertical leap. No small feat when you're 315 pounds. NC State prides itself on being D-Line U and McNeill takes that responsibility seriously.

"They've set the bar here for the D-Line at NC State, and we want to keep that tradition going," he said. "It's really a big deal here. I just want to make sure I can get my guys riled up."

Burnette thinks McNeill has the potential to carry that tradition forward -- yet another Wolfpack defensive lineman in the NFL.

"Just to see what he did as a freshman, and then to see what he did last year? He has to continue on that path of greatness," Burnette said.

McNeill chimes in: "I've become better with myself since I've been here, I'm still working on me. But I just want to be the ultimate teammate and win ballgames."