For an NFL athlete, your body is your business. If you want to perform at the highest level, you have to get serious about your nutrition.
New York Giants offensive tackle Evan Neal, the seventh-overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, is a perfect example of this. The Alabama product is 337 pounds, but you’d never guess that just by looking at a photograph of him with his shirt off.
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Neal carries that weight on a 6-foot-7.5-inch frame. His perfectly toned arms measured 34 inches long at the NFL Scouting Combine back in February, and his powerful hands came in at 10 and 1/8 inches. A man of that size shouldn’t be this nimble, but Neal’s athleticism defies conventional wisdom.
However you want to cut it, Neal is an absolute beast. But he wasn’t always this fit. In fact, there was one point in high school where Neal weighed 390 pounds, according to TuscaloosaNews.com.
The turning point came when NFL offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga saw him working out at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, and was not impressed with his physique. Bulaga told one of the trainers there that he would not draft Neal, according to 247Sports, due to his excess weight.
Neal cleaned up his diet after that, and that meant cutting down on one of his favorite meals: the Chick-Fil-A spicy chicken sandwich combo.
“Can’t do that these days,” Neal said at his Alabama Pro Day, per the New York Post.
Limiting his Chick-Fil-A intake helped Neal transform his body and solidify himself as an elite NFL prospect. If you watch videos of him from high school (working against fellow Giants first-round pick Kayvon Thibodeaux), you can tell he’s carrying some extra weight. Now, he’s a physical freak who can do stuff like this.
Only a world-class athlete can do that at 337 pounds.
Neal To Start For Giants at Right Tackle
A lot of times, you’ll hear about an NFL Draft pick being a “project” or a “raw prospect.” Neal does not fall into that category. The Giants have already named him the team’s starting right tackle for the 2022 season.
Unlike other top prospects who only played left tackle in college, Neal comes to the Giants with a lot of positional flexibility. At Alabama, he started games and performed well at guard and both tackle positions.
This is good news for fellow Giants offensive tackle Andrew Thomas because he can stay on the left side, where he enjoyed a breakout season in 2021. Depending on the tackle they got in the draft, the Giants were considering moving Thomas to the right side.
In addition to Neal and Thomas at tackle, the Giants did a lot of work upgrading the interior offensive line this offseason. Here’s a preview of what their starting unit could look like in 2022.
The Giants also selected guard Joshua Ezeudu out of North Carolina in the third round. He could be in the mix to compete with Max Garcia for the starting job at left guard. Ezeudu’s college teammate, fifth-round selection Marcus McKethan, gives the Giants some additional depth at guard.
Neal’s First Test Will Come at Rookie Minicamp
Giants fans won’t have to wait long to see how Neal will fare against top competition. He’ll get a chance to compete with edge defender Kayvon Thibodeaux, the fifth-overall pick in this year’s draft, at rookie minicamp.
“They’re going to be 50-50 every time,” Thibodeaux said of his upcoming practice reps against Neal, per Tom Rock of Newsday. “He’s gonna hit me with an uppercut, I’m gonna hit him with a right hook. He’ll hit me with a jab, I’ll hit him with a stomach hit. It’ll keep going back and forth.”
Leave it to Thibodeaux to describe this clash in flowery boxing terms. Neal does things a little differently.
“I’m going to talk with my shoulder pads,” Neal said, per Rock.