Thursday, March 03, 2011

Opening statement from retiring Patriots' lineman Stephen Neal

March 3, 2011

By Christopher Price

Before his Q-and-A with reporters this afternoon, Stephen Neal delivered an opening statement. Here is the full transcript of what he said before he took questions from the media:

"I never really was one who enjoyed the spotlight, but rather loved sport and competition. My first love was football, but graduated high school at 17 years old and being 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds, limited my opportunities. Wrestling was my best option and I attacked that challenge. Thanks to T.J. Kerr and Darryl Pope, my college coaches at Cal-State Bakersfield, I became a four-time All-American and a two-time National Champ, and a World Champion in 1999.

"In 2000, I failed to make the Olympic team, but that allowed me to meet Neil Cornrich, who is my agent. And thanks to him, he got me to the doorstep to the NFL, so thank you Neil. Then, I met coach [Bill] Belchick, and he opened that door, so thank you, coach Belichick. I learned the sport of football and the dedication needed for success in the NFL from Bill and Dante Scarnecchia. The dedication that they showed being the first one into the building and the last one to leave is something that's truly amazing and the reason for the success of the Patriots each and every year. So, thank you Dante, for everything. And then having success in this league is only possible with great ownership, and so I want to thank the Kraft family they really made me feel like part of the family when I was there.

"And it is truly special what happens in New England, and its something I will definitely miss. The sport of football is a brutal sport, and injuries are part of this game. The training, strength and medical staff here are top notch, and they are a huge factor to my success and the teams success. So thank all of you very much. You helped me stick around for so long.

"Of course, football is not an individual sport. I want to thank each and every teammate and coach who have walked through this building in the last 10 years. They have all helped me to have success in this game, so thank you guys. I want to thank each and every one of you. Without the media and the fans, the sport could not continue at the level it is at, so I would like to thank you for the coverage and the support you have shown me over the years. We definitely have the greatest fans in the country, and being in New England, when the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins and Pats all have success, its just a great environment and something I will never forget.

"I also want to recognize two good friends I made in New England. We have Chris Robertson, who is my go-to guy at Stop and Shop. He is a great guy. Thanks Chris. And Rich Burns, who is a great friend and fan, neighbor, and a great guy. So thank you Rich I will give you a call in a day or two.

"And all this is really possible because of my family. My Mom, my Dad Mike and Dave, my brothers. They all believed in me and never doubted my dreams. They were always there for me. And my wife Jodee put everything down in Bakersfield to follow me out here to New England. She has been my support through this entire journey. Always there for me after a win, loss, injuries, everything, with her arms wide open. She is there raising our beautiful girls, Colby and Jillian, and our stubborn copy of me, Gunnar. Our little guy. I just cant wait. My family is my new team, and I hope we can go undefeated for the rest of our lives. Thank you guys. Any questions you have, I will try and help you out."

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