OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Okeechobee County and Las Vegas may not have a lot in common, but this rural region of Florida was well represented in Sin City during Thursday night's NFL Draft.
Evan Neal, an Okeechobee native, was selected with the No. 7 overall pick by the New York Giants in Thursday night's NFL Draft.
Neal, 21, is a former Okeechobee High School player who transferred to IMG Academy in Bradenton before starring at the University of Alabama for three seasons.
Despite leaving Okeechobee County at an early age to play at IMG, the 6-foot-7, 337-pound offensive lineman has never forgotten his roots.
During Thursday night's festivities, Neal flashed the inside of his suit jacket, which was emblazoned with the words "Lake Okeechobee" and an outline of the Florida waterway.
The Okeechobee County School District posted a Facebook video Thursday offering their congratulations and eagerness to watch their native son play on Sundays in the NFL.
"They don't build them like that. He's a good kid, and he listens to what you say," Demetre Riles, who coached Neal in middle school, said.
At Okeechobee High School, Riles said Neal was also unstoppable. The school district has been eager to brag about its famous alum.
"He was the first freshman I ever had on varsity," Riles said. "It's like watching somebody's dream come true. As a coach that's what you want. You want to be able to mentor somebody or be a part of them and see them elevate."
As he takes his next big career move, Neal is building a legacy back home in Okeechobee County.
"The kids you've been preaching to, like, that's the end product," Riles said. "That's the way I want you to be."