Since graduating from New Town, Douglas McNeil III traveled down a twisted road to get to the NFL. His detours included stops at four colleges, a job at a coffee shop and a season in the Arena Football League with the Portland Thunder.
The 6-foot-3, 200-pound former Bowie State wide receiver also had a stint on the Seattle Seahawks' practice squad last season before signing a reserve-future deal with them this week.
"It's definitely been a long journey, coming from high school to college to the Arena League to get to this point," McNeil told The Baltimore Sun in a telephone interview. "Joining an organization like Seattle, I already knew about Pete Carroll and the kind of coach he was before I got there. I really like Pete Carroll. He really gets his guys ready to play."
After accepting a scholarship to Virginia Tech in 2006, McNeil never enrolled at the school. He ended up at James Madison, where his roommate was former Ravens and Randallstown linebacker D.J. Bryant.
When McNeil became academically ineligible at James Madison, he attended Community College of Baltimore County. He worked at a coffee shop and stayed in shape by playing flag football before transferring to Bowie State in 2010.
"I had to sit out a year after going to JMU, so I worked at a coffee shop at Montgomery Plaza," McNeil said. "It was the most humbling experience I went through. I couldn't do anything with football for a year. I just worked on my craft as much as I could by playing in flag football leagues and tournaments. I was maintaining my game. It was the road I had to take.
"At JMU, I was kind of back and forth academically. I wasn't even eligible to transfer. I had to sit out a year. When I went to Bowie State, I was a redshirt sophomore instead of a junior because they didn't take some of my credits."
At New Town, McNeil was an all-state and all-county selection in football, played on a basketball team that made the state semifinals, and ran track, in which he was a divisional champion in relays and the long jump. He caught 31 passes for 681 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior.
At Bowie State, McNeil was a second-team All-Central Intercollegiate Athletics Association selection as a senior, when he caught 34 passes for 667 yards and five touchdowns. He had 84 catches for 1,407 yards and 11 touchdowns in three seasons for the Bulldogs.
McNeil went undrafted after working out for NFL teams at a regional scouting combine at the Ravens' training complex, running the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds.
"I didn't have a high draft grade," McNeil said. "I did some [Canadian Football League] tryouts, and one of the coaches told me he felt like I would benefit from the Arena Football League. He thought I would benefit from the style of play, and that was the only way for me to get some film."
McNeil signed with the Thunder, for which he caught 66 passes for 858 yards and 18 touchdowns in 11 games.
"The Arena Football League is very different, but you still compete at a high level," McNeil said. "I knew, going into the Arena League, I had to get some good film to be relevant. I came to their camp and really battled, and it all worked out."
McNeil had a stint on the Denver Broncos' practice squad last season before rejoining the Thunder. He was signed to the Seahawks' practice squad after a successful tryout in December.
McNeil became the second player in Bowie State history to be on a Super Bowl roster, joining former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Isaac Redman.
Although the Seahawks lost the Super Bowl to the New England Patriots, former CFL wide receiver Chris Matthews excelled for Seattle with four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. And McNeil noticed.
"It just shows that the Seahawks are willing to give people a chance to show what they can do," McNeil said. "It's definitely encouraging. At the end of the day, I know the reason they brought me here is for what I can do. I have the mindset to make the team every day, and I've kind of stuck with that."