Andre Neblett speaks to his father, Stephan, after every practice.
They discuss each others’ days and whatever else father and son deem important.
Beyond their love for each other, both have difficult jobs.
While Andre collides with men weighing more than 300 pounds day in and day out, Stephan has been working in a warehouse for more than 23 years. Both are soft-spoken and prefer to let their work speak.
“Yes, he works in the warehouse until this day, so I really look up to him a lot,” Andre says about his dad. “I really appreciate what he has done to get me to this point. He has supported me in ways I couldn’t even imagine. He encourages me and tells me to stay focused. He taught me all the little things to help me.
“This is my job, and that is his job. He goes to work and works hard every day. I try to do the same thing by having that working mentality. Also, what I took from college is the same thing. Just little things and that is what these coaches stress to win. The little things like being on time, having your play book, taking little notes and re-taking those notes. It is called being a professional.”
Neblett’s lessons and play have helped the Carolina Panthers win four out of their last five games. The second-year pro has given the Panthers consistency in the interior of their defensive line, which was lacking until Neblett began to take the field regularly.
Moreover, Neblett’s play is a major reason the Panthers’ run defense has moved from being ranked as low as 27th to now being ranked 21st in the NFL.
And for two months, Panthers coach Ron Rivera has been praising the Temple product. He points out Neblett’s ability to play the three-technique and nose guard allow the Panthers to have versatility with their front four.
Rivera said Neblett maintain a positive attitude despite his lack of playing time. He said Neblett continued to work hard in practice when he was inactive for two games (Atlanta Falcons and Washington Redskins) in October. Neblett not only prepared as if he was going to play, but he also helped out on the scout team by playing guard on the offensive line, Rivera added.
When the decision was made to release veteran defensive tackle Ronald Fields in late October, Neblett was ready. And he hasn’t left the rotation since.
Rivera doesn’t brag about the move, but the first-year coach said letting go Fields was done to provide more playing time for Neblett, who has 21 tackles (15 solo) and 2.5 sacks since returning to the game-day roster.
“We had Andre down a couple of weeks, and we got to a game (against the Minnesota Vikings) where we felt we need his quickness,” Rivera said about Neblett’s return from consecutive games of being inactive. “We brought him back up, and he played very well. When a guy is working hard and giving everything he has he deserves a chance. So when we gave him that opportunity he has grabbed it, and he hasn’t let go of it yet.”
In the Vikings game, Neblett had three tackles (two solo). The next week in a 30-3 home loss to the Tennessee Titans, Neblett had his best game of this short career with five tackles (three solo) and a sack. He was probably the only bright spot in a home loss, which was by far Carolina’s worse showing of the season because it came after a bye week.
Neblett, who suffered a mild concussion last week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, isn’t celebrating his recent feat, though.
For the second straight year, he has had to fight to make the team. Neblett acknowledges it wasn’t easy beating out high draft picks such as Corvey Irvin and Delijuan Robinson to secure a roster spot.
For most of training camp, Irvin was running with the first team while Neblett was trying to remain in the rotation. Even though he missed time in Spartanburg with a concussion, Neblett was able to make the team as one of only three defensive tackles.
Neblett, who started his third consecutive game last week against the Buccaneers, believed his chance to play would come. He said players get injured or another circumstance occurs that provides an opportunity to play.
“It is definitely a great opportunity (here),” Neblett said. “When they made cuts (before the season) I was praying that they weren’t taking my stuff out of my locker, and that really showed they believed in me.
“At the end of the day we are all human, and we get comfortable, so it is important to not get comfortable. It is important to have that hunger 24/7, and I’m trying to keep that. That is what has helped me with my success is staying hungry.”
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