It’s been a wild 24 hours for Ryan Neal.
The three-year practice squad player was promoted to the Seahawks active roster on Saturday ahead Seattle’s matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. Then in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, All-Pro safety Jamal Adams went down with a groin injury.
Neal’s name was called, and he was ready.
“I honestly can’t even walk you through the past 24 hours,” Neal said after the game. “Literally walking into meetings thinking I’m still on the practice squad and everything, and next thing you know I’m starting on a couple special teams and I’m just alright, here we go. Back doing my job, come in and just give it my best effort. You just never know. This is a game where somebody goes down, you’re the next man up. You got to come in here and finish the job. I never for once doubted anything...
After DK Metcalf notched a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give Seattle the 38-31 edge, Dak Prescott had one last opportunity to lead his Cowboys to a wild finish. Instead, on third down, Prescott weaved a desperation throw to the end zone and Neal was there for the game-sealing interception.
“Thank God that hey, he gave me one, he threw one my way and I just went up there and made the play,” Neal said. “I’m grateful right now.”
Neal initially joined Seattle in 2019 as a member of the practice squad. He was added to the 53-man roster late last year, where he appeared in three games. The third-year pro was waived following Seahawks roster cuts in September, before being signed to the practice squad the next day.
Neal said following the Seahawks victory, he had contemplated many times the idea of leaving his NFL career behind him. Luckily, he changed his mind.
“You stay faithful, stay committed to the process,” Neal said. “There’s been times when I’ve wanted to quit, but you just don’t, you just keep going because you don’t ever, ever know when that moment can be yours.”
That moment finally came. Tyler Lockett praised the 24-year-old for making the most of his rare window of opportunity.
“You never know when you’re going to get that opportunity,” Lockett said. “And once you get that opportunity, you’ve got to be able to go out there and play. And I think when you look at Neal, he made that interception at the last game, he hadn’t gotten a chance to be able to play or do anything yet...
For the second week in a row, the Seahawks got a final drive stop. But Week 3 will be a moment Neal remembers for some time, and he’s bringing home the football to remind him of what happens when you don't give up on your dreams.
“I grabbed that one held on tight from the moment I caught it, all the way into the locker room, all the way until now," Neal said. "I’m still holding on. Can’t let that one go, that’s coming home.”