IMG Academy's Evan Neal Selected as Program's First Top-10 NFL Draft Pick
On April 28, 2022, IMG Academy football alumnus, Evan Neal, a junior OT from the University of Alabama, became IMG football's first top-10 NFL Draft pick after hearing his name called by the New York Giants. Neal was selected as the seventh overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft held in Las Vegas, NV.
14 Ascenders from IMG Academy's football program have been previously selected in the NFL Draft, beginning with Bo Scarbrough, a seventh round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Scarbrough and Neal both attended the University of Alabama and played under head coach Nick Saban. Scarbrough was part of both the Crimson Tide's 2015 and 2017 College Football National Championship teams.
Evan Neal was part of Alabama's 2020 National Championship team. Neal now joins his former teammates' ranks as the 15th pro player from IMG Academy in Bradenton, making it the fifth straight year for the program to have an alumnus drafted and the third straight year with a first round pick.
Evan Neal's size and athleticism made him one of the top ten recruits in the country. He started all 13 games at right guard in 2019 and landed an SEC All-Freshman Team selection. Neal moved to right tackle in 2020 and led the team's offense during the CFP National Championship.
In his final collegiate season, Neal was voted team captain, started 15 games at left tackle, earned AP second-team All-American honors, and was recognized as a first-team All-SEC selection. He has also now made IMG football program history as the first player to be drafted in the top ten.
As the Draft continued throughout the weekend, a second Ascender in Daniel Faalele was selected in the fourth round as the 110th overall pick by the Baltimore Ravens. Faalele graduated from IMG in 2018 and went on to compete at the University of Minnesota.
This OT previously played rugby in his home country of Australia before switching to football at IMG Academy. After learning the game, he worked his way into a four-star recruit ranking as a right tackle in his senior year. Faalele produced an honorable mention All-Big Ten freshman campaign in eight starts at right tackle for Minnesota—and repeated that honor in 2019.
Faalele opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns, but returned in 2021 to garner a first-team All-Big Ten Conference. He made headlines during the postseason by lining up at fullback to score against West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.