BALTIMORE – Former Bowie State University wide receiver Douglas McNeil III could not have had a better-scripted end to his 2018 campaign in the Arena Football League (AFL).
After being on recallable assignment for the Albany Empire and Baltimore Brigade, McNeil finally had a solid opportunity to make an impact for Washington when he was acquired by the Valor on June 27.
In less than a month, the Charm City native played in ArenaBowl XXXI against the Brigade in his hometown at Royal Farms Arena on July 28 against the same team that decided to let him go.
“Doing exactly what ‘they’ said I couldn’t do,” McNeil said after defeating Albany during the two-game postseason series on July 14 and July 21 prior to the ArenaBowl. “I couldn’t have brought my birthday in any better. 30 where? Still feel like a gazelle running through the Serengeti.”
The six-foot-three, 210-pound deep threat exploited Albany scoring four touchdowns in the two-game span and got the last laugh over his two former squads as he helped Washington win its first-ever AFL championship against the Brigade 69-55.
He earned the Offensive Player of the Game award by hauling in eight receptions for 95 yards and accounted for four touchdowns including one on a kickoff return in the second half.
McNeil was the favorite target of quarterback Arvell Nelson who won MVP honors by throwing all of his touchdowns to the former Bulldog. Arvell totaled eight touchdowns on the evening setting an ArenaBowl record with five rushing touchdowns.
“I want to give credit to my team,” Nelson said. “My team, they rallied around me. I’m the quarterback, the leader, the general, so I’m in the spotlight. But those guys really won this game for us. They blocked their butts off, caught the ball, made plays, the defense made stops, so I mean it’s special to have won MVP, but I want to give all credit to them.”
McNeil played two seasons for Bowie State where he showed off his explosiveness and ability to stretch defenses in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA). The New Town High School alumnus played there for three years where he accumulated 84 receptions for 1,407 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“He (McNeil) has a great work ethic and you’re not going to outwork him,” Bowie State University Head Coach Damon Wilson. “He did a great job in persevering through the different challenges on and off the football field to have a successful college career which gave him an opportunity to play professional football so it was very rewarding to see him play the game that he loves.”
However, it was not an easy journey for McNeil as he went undrafted in 2013. Nevertheless, McNeil had a breakout year first season in the AFL for the Portland Thunder where he caught 66 balls for 858 yards and 14 touchdowns. That sparked the interest of the Denver Broncos the following year but he was cut shortly after.
McNeil did sign with the Seattle Seahawks in 2014, but he never touched the field. He also attempted to play in the Canadian Football League (CFL) for the BC Lions in 2016 as a practice squad player.
“He has always been a joy to coach at Bowie State,” Wilson said about McNeil. “He was a kid that was the first person in the weight room and last to leave. He bounced around a little bit in the NFL, CFL, and arena teams but he showed us that he still has the skillset to play at a high level.”
McNeil could have easily quit during that two-year layoff before joining the third AFL team this year in a single season. However, all of the hardships propelled McNeil to this moment allowed him to show the world on a big stage that he would not be overlooked and he seized his opportunity for greatness.
“Hard work and dedication behind the scenes people don’t see,” McNeil said about dealing with adversity. “The late nights in the weight room, the field work, the grind that I put in with my brothers. I reflect on those moments the most because they prepared me for the position I’m in today.”
With an award-winning championship performance under his belt, the Charm City sensation left his mark on the gridiron and it appears that the best is yet to come.