With all sports canceled, it’s safe to say we’re all collectively losing our minds in a slow but inevitable fashion. As someone who covers sports for a living, this time is going to be difficult to say the least. Not a lot is happening and there’s only so many things we can write about one given topic. So in the spirit of originality and attempting to liven things up, we are going to spend the next fews weeks taking some time and appreciating Chargers of the past.
The players highlighted won’t simply be the greatest or most popular Chargers of all time. They’ll include fan favorites, guys who were flashes in the pan, and guys you just couldn’t help but support for one reason or another. All in all, we just want to take this time to do some reflecting and take a trip down memory lane while good ol’ fashioned nostalgia fills our veins.
To kickoff this series, we have a guy who was an instant star for the Chargers when he was drafted by the team in the second round of the 2006 NFL Draft.
Marcus McNeill came to San Diego by way of Auburn University where he started 28 total games in his four-year career. While playing for Tommy Tubberville’s Tigers, McNeill helped Auburn to an undefeated year and an SEC Championship in 2004 while being named to the All-SEC First Team and a First-Team All-American. In his final year, he was once again named a First-Team All-American but this time as a consensus pick. The Sporting News would later name him to their All-Decade team for the 2000’s.
All Auburn Offense (2000-2020)— All Aubarn All Day (@AllAubarn) December 16, 2019
QB1: Cam Newton
QB2: Nick Marshall
RB1: Carnell Williams
RB2: Tre Mason
Flex: Jay Prosche
Flex: Phillip Lutzenkirchen
WR1: Seth Williams
WR2: Darvin Adams
T1: Greg Robinson
T2: Marcus McNeill
G1: Ben Grubbs
G2: Braden Smith
C: Reese Dismukes
At 6’8 and almost 340 pounds, McNeill was a prototypical offensive tackle that would be coveted in any year of the draft. He wound-up being the 50th-overall pick and the seventh offensive tackle off the board. Now this was surprising as McNeill had one of the most-decorated careers that an offensive linemen could have in college but it was his injury history that kept some teams away. Coming out of Auburn, McNeill was diagnosed with spinal stenosis which is a defect causing a narrowing of the spine. Due to this, McNeill did not do a lot of weight-training while in college. He also dealt with a fractured right hand that forced him to miss the bench press at that year’s combine.
Regardless of the concerns, he was a home-run selection for the Chargers, starting all 16 games at left tackle during the 2006 season. He played an integral part in helping running back LaDainian Tomlinson set numerous records that year, including the record for most touchdowns scored in a single season. He was lucky enough to play alongside left guard Kris Dielman - who may also make an appearance in this series - and it really worked out for both of them. One of the most impressive individual feats for McNeill as a rookie is that he went the entire season without being called for a holding penalty.
McNeill went on to start all 16 games in two of his next three seasons, showing a consistency in play and a knack for always being available. He was named to his second pro bowl in as many years after the 2007 season after Jonathan Ogden pulled out of the all-star game.
However, it unfortunately all came crashing down during the 2010 season. Prior to that season, McNeill held out of training camp in order to secure a long-term deal with the team. He won that battle and landed a six-year, $49 million contract to keep him with the Chargers for the long haul. This would not be the case in the end as McNeill went on to start just 11 games in 2010 and only nine in 2011. He would inevitably be released in March of 2012 and subsequently retire soon after.
While that’s not how anyone wanted his career to unfold, it’s tough not to look back at the deal he signed and think of that as the start of the Chargers’ bad luck when it comes to offensive linemen. But that’s not what this series is about. Some players are going to have happier endings to their careers compared to others. McNeill was such a beacon for excitement during his rookie contract and I think it just shows how imperative it is that fans appreciate the good while they have it. It’s been a long decade of issues along the offensive line and any one of you would probably give an arm or a leg for four solid years that McNeill put together from 2006-2009.
So let’s appreciate McNeill for what he gave us while he could. What are some of your favorites moments from McNeill’s career with the Chargers? Any special moments that come to mind? Let’s talk about it in the comments.