Today in Patriots History
Happy 78th birthday to Tom Neville
Born August 12, 1942 in Montgomery, Alabama
Patriot RT, 1965-1977; uniform #77
Pats 7th round (55th overall) selection of the 1965 AFL draft, from Mississippi State
Tom Neville was a fixture at right tackle in the early days of the Pats. He is the right tackle on the New England Patriots All-Decade Team of the 1960s, as well as the Pats 35th Anniversary Team.
April 3, 2008:
Tom Neville played in 160 games over 13 seasons with the Patriots. During that time he mentored some of the best linemen in Patriots history and watched as the team earned an identity in New England.
Tom Neville played offensive tackle for the Patriots over 13 seasons (1965-77), outlasting four different head coaches and playing in seven “home” stadiums, Neville had a huge impact on generations of Patriots offensive linemen, but he almost missed becoming a Patriot altogether.
When Neville arrived at Patriots Training Camp in 1965, wear-and-tear was beginning to catch up with him. He’d already had the kind of college production that would later earn him induction into both the Mississippi State and Mississippi Sports Halls of Fame. A knee injury incurred while playing both ways for the Bulldogs left him unable to pass the Patriots’ physical.
“They had said it was cartilage and it ended up being ligament. It was a complete tear,” remembered the now-64 year-old diamond dealer, speaking in a thick Southern drawl. “They were going to run us on the 40, and my leg wouldn’t bend enough. It kept catching in the grass. I couldn’t get down in a defensive stance and couldn’t get into the left tackle stance because it was the wrong leg that was extended.
“They wanted to send me home and come back next year. I said, ‘No, I’ve just driven thirteen-hundred miles, I’m not going home.’ They said, ‘Play right tackle.’ I was able to get down in a stance and I made the team. After the third game I was able to get the starting position.”
Quickly carving out a niche for himself as an outstanding pass-blocker in Head Coach Mike Holovak’s offense, which featured Vito “Babe” Parilli at quarterback, Neville attended the Pro Bowl in 1966 and again two years later.
. . .
In 1973, Chuck Fairbanks took over as head coach. He began rebuilding the team by drafting offensive guard John Hannah fourth overall. Both being from Alabama, Neville and Hannah quickly formed a lasting bond.
“Tommy was kind of my mentor when I first got there,” said Hannah. “He was in his eighth year. He kind of took me under his wing and helped me adjust to the world of pro football.
Neville was a staple of the Patriots offense for over a decade, but in 1975, he broke a leg. It healed, but the doctors realized a ligament had been trapped during the healing process. They re-broke Neville’s leg just six months after the original injury, and he was hard-pressed to return before the 1976 season.
“I came to training camp and didn’t pass the physical, so I didn’t practice with the team,” said Neville.
“He was running figure eights, and there was a spot on the ground where you could see that he actually wore an eight into the ground trying to get that ankle strong,” remembered Hannah, noting that Neville was activated right before the first game of the season. “To see him rehabilitate himself like that and the kind of effort he put into it was a great example for a lot of us.”
One player Neville set an example for was rookie center Peter Brock, another first-round offensive lineman. He came aboard the year of Neville’s injury.
“I was two weeks late getting to Training Camp,” said Brock, who was participating in the Chicago Tribune All-Star game at the time. “Red Miller, who was our offensive line coach, said that I had no free time unless it was spent with Tommy Neville going over the playbook and game plans. I spent all my free time outside of practice and meetings with him. He was in his 12th year. He helped me immensely.”
April 26, 2018:
This installment of the Montgomery-to-NFL series features Tom Neville, who turned down more money from Pittsburgh to play for the then Boston Patriots.
Tom Neville’s rookie contract with the then-AFL’s Boston Patriots was only $13,500.
The Pittsburgh Steelers offered him $1,500 more, but Neville turned it down.
“The guy who recruited me was a total jerk,” he said.
The decision worked out in his favor. Neville played 12 of his 14 seasons with the now New England Patriots after the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.
“The Patriots were my family,” said Neville.
Neville describes his life as being “accidental.”
Example one — The callus leading to him buying pocket watches and eventually owning a jewelry store.
Example two — A conversation at a gas station in Montgomery turning into an opportunity.
“A guy says, ‘Aren’t you so and so?’ I said, ‘Yeah,’” Neville said. “He said, ‘Where you playing football?’ I said, ‘I’m not.’ He said, ‘How’d you like to play for Mississippi State?’ I said, ‘That’d be great.’”
Two weeks later, Neville was in Starkville practicing. He became a second-team All-American and two-time All-SEC selection for the Bulldogs.
. . .
Neville stayed and earned a starting spot at right tackle to begin a 14-year pro career. An AFL all-star in 1966, the 6-foot-4, 260-pound Neville was a team co-captain for four years. He won the George L. Sargent Award for leadership in 1974 and the Jim Lee Hunt Award as the team’s top lineman in 1977.
Picture Day allegedly from July 15, 1971(or maybe 1969-70?): offensive line RT Tom Neville, RG Len St. Jean, C Jon Morris, LT Tom Funchess and LG Mike Montler.
Mar 15, 2010:
At a recent luncheon at the Capital City Club, former Patriots offensive lineman Tom Neville wowed the Ladies Luncheon group with a display of some of his treasured pocket watches -- ranging from the 1820s to the 1920s -- and jewelry pieces from the Victorian and Art Deco ages.
Tom Neville's wristwatch was giving him a callus.
It was the 1970s, and Neville was an offensive tackle for the New England Patriots. Jewelry wasn't exactly his thing.
But that callus was bugging the heck out of him.
That's when Neville invested in a dapper antique pocket watch. He liked it so much, he bought another, then another -- and that pretty much changed the course of his life.
. . .
When Neville lived in Boston, a friend owned a jewelry store, and Neville found himself spending more and more time there -- on days he wasn't roughing it out on the football field. That friend suggested he study to become a gemologist, but Neville said his response at the time was, "Ehh..."
Though his feeling about studying jewelry was ambivalent at first, he finally ended up earning a degree from the Gemological Institute of America in Santa Monica, Calif.
After opening Tom Neville The Source in 1983, this hometown native has become one of the top go-to guys in the region. Not only for football reminiscences -- but for jewelry. Working in his store in the old Union Bank building, he has a customer base of more than 15,0000 people -- some who come from all over the U.S.