In Rock Hill for a doctor’s visit, former South Pointe Stallion football standout Corey Neely stopped by The Herald for a Q&A to update hometown supporters about his sophomore season with Georgia Military College, a junior college in Milledgeville, Ga., where a number of locals have played over the years.
Neely, a 6-foot, 181-pound free safety, is having a fall worth discussion. He’s made 74 tackles through seven games, forced one fumble and recovered three more, picked off three passes, and broken up seven others. Neely leads the Bulldogs in pass break-ups, interceptions, fumble recoveries, solo tackles, assists, total tackles and tackles per game; and he ranks fifth in NJCAA in solo tackles, and eighth in total tackles.
That success hasn’t gone unseen. Neely was also included in a recent top-100 junior college prospects list compiled by ESPN and is attracting interest from a number of FBS schools.
Q. I’ve been following your season, but for those who haven’t, how’s it been going so far?
A. It’s been pretty good. A lot of freshmen came in so we sophomores had to step up.
Q. You guys are 3-4?
A. Yeah, 3-4.
Q. You’re listed as a free safety, so what is your primary objective for that position?
A. My primary project is I’m the quarterback of the defense, a ball-hawk, and I’m really the tackler for our defense, me and the linebackers.
Q. So you’re kind of cleaning up?
A. Basically, basically.
Q. Making big plays like recovering fumbles and picks, that’s something you did at South Pointe, so what’s helped you continue to do that at GMC?
A. Little more motivation about what I want, what I want as in offers and the schools I want looking at me. A little more grind this year.
Q. Maybe at South Pointe you made that realization a little too late?
A. Yeah, too late.
Q. How does recruiting work at GMC? Do they keep you updated on who’s looking and who’s offered, or do they save that until after the season?
A. They keep us updated but they also save it ’til after the season. But most of the coaches that call during the season, they want you to know they called, but most of the big schools, they wait until after the season.
Q. I guess it’s not like high school as much where you get letters?
A. We get letters but they’d be like, from the beginning of the spring.
Q. Have you got any offers so far this year?
A. UAB (Alabama-Birmingham) and Tennessee State.
Q. Have you got other schools that are interested or looking?
A. Yeah, yeah, got a lot of schools interested. It’s hard to know what’s interest when they call and get with your coach. But I got Georgia Southern too. I talk to the head coach almost every day.
Q. How far is that school?
A. It’s about an hour and a half from me.
Q. I covered junior college basketball at my last newspaper, and one thing about that level is the hierarchy. When you’re a freshman you really had to wait your turn, unless you’re special. So how tough was that last year, and how happy are you to have gotten through that and now be in a position to play a lot?
A. It was tough because my freshman season I was playing a role, me and three other safeties. We all played together, but this season I’m playing the whole game and choose when to come out, when to go in, so there’s really more freedom.
Q. How different is it for you now, I guess you’ve seen that other side?
A. I seen it as in I made it through this year, so I know I could make it through this next year. It really was a growing-up step, but it really was a good step at the same time.
Q. Another thing I love about jucos is there are these hidden guys everywhere that no one knows about. Who is one guy at GMC that college football fans will know about either next year or the year after?
A. I want to say ... Devante Covington, our defensive end. He verbally committed to South Carolina, but he don’t know where he wants to go yet. He’s really quiet.
Q. You’ve got Buddy (Byers) and Jaquavious (Mackey) down there, how much does that help to have some guys you know?
A. That helped me a lot because as teammates, me and Buddy had a bond from South Pointe. And (former Northwestern Trojan) Jaquavious coming in, him being from the city, we automatically bonded together. So that really worked out well.
Q. I know it’s Georgia Military College, but how militaristic is it?
A. It’s really to a certain standard. We wake up early at 6, we put on our uniforms and we stand on the bricks and do commands and stuff. After that we just go to class and we have to wear it for a certain amount of time. We have to march some days but not all the time. It’s pretty strict.
Q. Are there regulations of what you can have in your room?
A. No T.V., no microwaves. People of rank can have T.V.’s and everybody can have a refrigerator.
Q. You had to cut your dreads off when you went down there, so how did Jaquavious handle that? Because I remember when I talked to him on National Signing Day, he was worried about that.
A. When I cut my hair, I just cut it. He said it was a change for him, but he got used to it.
Q. Do you think you’ll grow your hair back next year?
A. Probably so, probably so.
Q. You have two daughters, right? What are their names?
A. Khori and Corianna.
Q. I can see the influence for their names. What kind of reminders do you have of them down at GMC?
A. My mom sends me photos and I go on Instagram. I try to take a picture before I leave. Every time I go on the field I write their names on my tape so I have them with me wherever I go.
Q. As if you needed any more motivation, those days that you’re feeling too sore or too tired, how much does it help to think about them?
A. I just think about what would be best for them in the years to come. I just think about, ‘if I don’t do this, they might not have that,’ so I just motivate myself to do that so they can have what I didn’t have.