The Buffalo Bills used the first of the first of their two fifth-round picks in the 2018 draft (154th overall) on Saturday to select cornerback Siran Neal out of Jacksonville State. The six-foot, 206-pound Neal was the only safety the Bills took in this year’s draft.
The 23-year old spent five seasons at JSU, playing for the team for four of those years after redshirting as a freshman. According NFL.com, Neal saw time at linebacker, safety, and cornerback during his career with the Gamecocks. He posted 39 total tackles, broke up 11 passes, and forced one fumble last season playing corner, per JSU’s official website.
Here’s what Neal had said during his first time speaking with the media:
Q: Congratulations, Siran. I hope I’m saying your name right.
Q: You’ve played both corner and safety, even linebacker in college. Where do you think you fit at the next level and have you spoken with the Bills coaches about it?
A: I spoke to Coach [Bobby] Babich about it; he said he really likes how I fit inside the run game, attack the run, and liked how I play in one on one’s as a big guy. I can’t say exactly where I’ll be fitting in, but wherever they need me to come in and compete and be part of their team, that’s what I’m looking for.
Q: The fact that you didn’t play a lot of zone in college, does that say something- I mean, it says something about your scheme there, but also you. [With] your coverage skills, you find yourself in a lot of one-on-one situations.
A: Yes, sir, I did. I didn’t put myself in that, I think my coach put me in that because I’m a pretty big guy in a one-on-one battle, so they trusted me in that position.
Q: As far as the physical part of the position, give us a sense of that. How do you see yourself fitting in in run support and so forth?
A: Fitting into the run support, I just came from fitting in the run support when I played nickel at Jacksonville State. I really came in the run through the backfield and through the offensive linemen and knowing what’s coming at me.
Q: Do you have any idea who Keith McKeller is?
A: Keith McKeller, no I don’t.
Q: He’s the last Jacksonville State guy to play for the Bills and he was on those Super Bowls teams they had back in the 90’s.
A: Yeah, I remember now that you say it, I remember seeing him in a video in our lobby in Jacksonville and it caught my attention.
Q: You seem to be a pretty big hitter. Can you just walk us through your game and how much you enjoy the physical part of it?
A: Oh, I definitely love the physical part of it. I feel like anybody that gets the ball in their hands and runs towards my way, just with me right now it’s like ‘just get him on the ground.’ I just love the physical part of the game with attacking one side of the player and just bringing a hard thump to them.
Q: Did you have any sort of contact with the Bills during the pre-draft process?
A: I had contact with Coach [Bobby] Babich. Coach Babich came down here and worked me out and we went out and ate. He actually introduced me to this nice restaurant in Jacksonville. I never even thought it was a restaurant but he took me out to eat and we had a nice conversation. He called me and let me know how the guys up there knew of my prior workout tape and all that stuff and Coach Babich played pretty good too. He came from a small school as well. Definitely, I had contact with Coach Babich.
Q: Do you know anything about Buffalo, NY? Have you ever been up this way?
A: [laughs] I just know it’s cold, but I’ve never been up that way.
Q: Can you take us through what it was like when you got that phone call from the Bills?
A: Aw, man. I couldn’t even – I just stopped watching the TV for a while and I went outside. As soon as I went outside, I got the phone call and I can’t even explain the feeling, you know? I was also worried and all I could do was thank God. I really don’t know what to say, just thank the Man above.