CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — T.J. Neal stared and stared some more at the television screen Saturday.
This rain-soaked weekend provided the perfect opportunity for the Illinois linebacker to sit back and watch the 2016 NFL Draft in his off-campus apartment. More importantly, it was a time to daydream about his future at Auburn and beyond.
“Two more Saturdays,” he told SEC Country.
Neal will graduate with a bachelor’s degree from Illinois on May 14, pack his bags and be on Auburn’s campus May 15 — three days before the start of summer classes. A year from now the graduate transfer hopes to be packing his bags in preparation for an NFL career.
“That’s the dream,” Neal told SEC Country. “I believe that is going to happen. I believe I’m going to have a great senior year down there at Auburn and in the end, yes, I believe I’m going to go play in the National Football League and play for a lot of years and have a great career. That’s my plan. I watch this stuff every year and get the chills watching it.”
He watched Friday as former teammate Jihad Ward, an Illinois defensive end, was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the second round. He could see himself getting a similar call next season, but knows a big season will be needed at Auburn to complete that task.
Neal finished with 109 tackles for the Illini in 2015, ranking eighth in the Big Ten. He has racked up 207 over the last two seasons.
“I believe if I would have played last year at Auburn with the year I had last year — down there in the SEC — I’d be on the phone waiting for that call (in the NFL Draft),” Neal said. “It’s all in God’s hands and you go through certain things for a reason. I believe all the stuff I was crying about my four years being here at Illinois, it’s starting to come true making that transition down in Auburn. It’s like, you know, it’s going to happen regardless. I believe so.”
Auburn’s Next Generation Tour
- Watch: Illinois graduate transfer TJ Neal answers Auburn fans’ questions
- Why Nate Craig-Myers, Jayvaughn Myers picked Auburn over North Carolina
- Woody Barrett wants to be the next Cam Newton
- Mr. Baseball: How 1 game convinced Auburn’s Jayvaughn Myers to play football
- Quarterback Woody Barrett willing to be role player at Auburn
- Freshman Nate Craig-Myers expects to be Auburn’s top receiver in 2016
- Is the time now for Woody Barrett as Auburn’s quarterback?
- Woody Barrett shows off skills, states his case for Auburn’s quarterback job
- 1-on-1: Auburn’s Nate Craig-Myers vs. Jayvaughn Myers