For this edition of the Command Center, JC Neal told us a little more about himself. JC had a breakout rookie season last year with the Tulsa Talons, putting together one of the best rookie seasons for a defensive player in AFL history.
Q: How has the season been going for you and how are you transitioning to Kansas City?
A: Well, the season hasn’t been going as well as we had hoped, but there is plenty of time left and we know if we make the right changes we will be fine. I had a great year with the Talons last year and I have been able to carry that over and transition very well to Kansas City this season.
Q: You had one of the top rookie seasons for a defensive player in AFL history. What do you attribute the most for you picking up the indoor game so quickly?
A: Definitely great teammates. I played with some great veterans that did a great job of teaching the game to me. They detailed things very well and helped me any way they could. Sergio (Gilliam) really knows a lot about the game and has helped me a lot here in my time with the Command as well. I basically just try to listen and pick up advice anywhere I can.
Q: You had a great football career at N.C. State (2005-2008). What have you taken from what you learned there and applied it to your AFL career?
A: The thing I learned the most is really how to play in schemes. Each scheme carries over from each stage of football; the tempo is the thing that really changes more than anything. Obviously in the AFL the tempo is very fast so that’s the biggest thing to adjust to in the scheme.
Q: Who was the best player you ever played against in college?
A: Definitely Calvin Johnson Jr. (Pro Bowl receiver for the Detroit Lions). He is very smart on the field along with being very physical and fast. He may be listed at 6’4”, but when you’re right up against him he seems like he is 6’6” and he can absolutely jump out of the gym. He was extremely hard to match up with for those reasons.
Q: Besides being a great high school football player, you were also a standout in track where you won a state title in the 100 meters. From your perspective, how would you compare the feeling of winning a football game to when you won a track meet?
A: Obviously the sports are different so there is a different mindset that comes with both. Track is very much individualized and you are counting just on yourself to perform. With football, you have your teammates to rely on and there’s obviously a more team-oriented mindset. Winning is great no matter what, but you definitely have a different mindset with these two sports.
Q: What was your first reaction when you found out the Command traded for you?
A: I honestly didn’t know what to think about it at first. I felt happy and then mad, and just different emotions about it. I was looking forward to playing for the Rattlers initially, but there’s a quote that I remembered that says. “It is more important to be needed than wanted” and I knew that I was more needed in Kansas City and I knew I could make a big impact there. When it comes down to it, I just want to play football and improve my game. There’s a great group of guys here and I enjoy playing with them.
Q: What was your experience like with the Miami Dolphins in 2009?
A: It was brief, but also a great experience at the same time. I realized how many people don’t even have an opportunity to play in the NFL so I didn’t take my time there for granted at all. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, it’s a business and I understood that. It was a great experience for me, but I obtained my college degree and the chance for me to play in the AFL arose so those have also been great experiences for me as well.
Q: What are some of your favorite hobbies?
A: I always enjoy spending time with my 4 year old son any time I can. In the offseason I enjoy fishing and riding dirt-bikes among other things. During the season, I stay away from that stuff and spend more time hanging out with my teammates, which I think definitely helps build more team chemistry among the guys.
Q: What is one interesting fact about yourself that most people don’t know?
A: I would say it’s the fact I am actually a really laid back guy. On the field I am very intense and loud and I am not that way at all off the field. I am pretty easy going, but on game day I am very intense and that shows on the field.
The Command Center will be published once a week and it will focus on getting to know the players, coaches, and owners and allowing the fans to learn more about these tremendous individuals. It is authored by Tyler Derby, a diehard fan of the Kansas City Command going back to its Brigade days who has followed the Arena Football League for years. It is written by a fan for the fans!!