The tragic passing of 27-year-old LaDarrell McNeil, a former defensive back at the University of Tennessee, has reminded the Volunteer community of something that McNeil himself tightly held on to.
“Every single day, every single game, I’m going to give my all,” McNeil said in a VFL Films production. “And I’m not going to take no days for granted.”
According to teammates, former Tennessee DB LaDarrell McNeil has passed away at 27 years old.
Prayers to his family, friends and former teammates.
Here he is discussing his first interception after returning from a neck injury during senior year. He started 41 games for Vols. pic.twitter.com/jDbi7kqwce
— Trey Wallace (@TreyWallace_) July 9, 2021
McNeil is documented during his return from injury in the VFL Films clip posted to Twitter. An injury that would eventually lead to an incredible interception during his return back to the team.
On Sept. 9, 2015, Tennessee decimated Western Carolina by a score of 55 to 10. The senior safety, McNeil, was originally thought to be lost for the season with a neck injury.
However, McNeil made his return against Western Carolina, and provided an incredible moment in the second quarter. McNeil intercepted quarterback Troy Mitchell and returned the ball 57 yards all the way down to the eight-yard-line.
Don’t forget, that was in the second quarter of his first game back after a neck injury. McNeil represented the true toughness of a Tennessee Volunteer.
“When I caught the interception I was really excited,” exclaimed McNeil in the clip from VFL Films. “I felt great… I felt like I was back!”
McNeil, a four-star recruit from Dallas, TX, played at Tennessee from 2012-2015. In his time with the Vols, he accounted for 219 total tackles and five interceptions. Not to mention, he also forced and recovered two fumbles.
McNeil officially received two awards in his career. He was on Phil Steele’s Preseason Third Team ALL-SEC roster in 2015 and was on the Freshman All-SEC team in 2012.
The Dallas native had three games in which he recorded ten tackles or more. The most recent of which was 11 against Missouri in 2014. Plus, McNeil also recorded his career high in tackles for a game at Tennessee against the Tigers.
Willie Martinez, an assistant coach currently with the Vols, was the defensive backs coach during McNeil’s time in Tennessee.
“I loved coaching LaDarrell McNeil,” Tennessee coach Martinez said in a statement posted to Twitter. “He was a young man of high character, good teammate, one the toughest & most physical players I’ve had the privilege to coach. Thankful & blessed to have been a part of his life. RIP”
McNeil was only 27-years-old when he passed away on Thursday, July 8. And while the young man certainly had more lessons to teach the world lined up, we can always remember one of the lessons from his playing days.
“…take no days for granted.”