Dec. 16, 2004
Cullowhee, N.C. - In addition to Brad Hoover (Carolina Panthers), David Patten (New England Patriots) and Willie Williams (Pittsburgh Steelers) playing in the National Football League, three former Catamounts are currently continuing their professional careers. Nick McNeil recently signed with the Green Bay Packers, David Rivers is one of three active quarterbacks with the Oakland Raiders and Michale Spicer, who will graduate from Western this weekend, has signed to play with the Los Angeles Avengers in the Arena Football League.
McNeil, who graduated from Western last December, signed as a non-drafted free agent with the Steelers April 30 and spent four months and 2004 training camp in Pittsburgh before the Steelers waived him Aug. 30. He then worked out with the Packers in early September, setting the stage for his eventual signing with Green Bay on Dec. 2. McNeil had been spending time in Cullowhee, working out with Spicer, and was prepared to go to San Jose to make a bid to play in the Arena Football League for the defending AFL champion SaberCats. However, as he was about to leave for California in early December, he was informed by his agent that the Packers called and wanted him for their practice squad.
"(Coming to Green Bay) has been a really good experience so far," McNeil said. "I am learning the system and, at this level, it is all about the fundamentals. I feel I am doing well and we will see what happens in the future."
McNeil was a three-time All-Southern Conference selection as a defensive end with Western. However, with both the Steelers and Packers he has made the move to linebacker. McNeil has been assigned #54 with the Packers. (Green Bay's official website is www.packers.com.)
Rivers, who spent the 2004 NFL preseason with the Atlanta Falcons before being waived, landed on the practice squad for the Raiders on Oct. 20 when Rich Gannon was placed on injured reserve. Seven days later, the Raiders released quarterback Bret Engemann to leave the team with just three active quarterbacks, including Rivers, Kerry Collins and Marques Tuiasosopo. Rivers has been assigned #14 with the Raiders. (Oakland's official website is www.raiders.com.)
Spicer, an All-American defensive end for the Catamounts and the school's all-time leader in tackles for losses, begins practice with the Avengers on Dec. 27. He will wear #1, playing fullback and linebacker. Playing those two positions will not be a stretch for the Goldsboro, N.C., native. Already having a solid resume on defense, he played fullback in short-yardage situations for Western in 2003. In fact, he scored Western's lone touchdown of the game in its loss to Wofford that season. Also, Spicer was a standout tailback in high school.
The Los Angeles Avengers have finalized their 2005 schedule and will kick off their sixth season of play in the 19-year-old Arena Football League on the road versus the Las Vegas Gladiators on Jan. 30, at the Thomas & Mack Center. That game will be televised live as the second part of a doubleheader on NBC, which is the AFL's national television partner for the third consecutive season.
The Avengers will play their home opener at STAPLES Center on Friday, Feb. 4, versus the Georgia Force. Los Angeles could have as many as five games televised on NBC, including its showdown with the defending ArenaBowl champion San Jose SaberCats on Feb. 20, at STAPLES Center. (Los Angeles' official website is www.laavengers.com.)