SPORTS

Chris Neild defies odds, shines in Redskins opener

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ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Chris Neild waited, waited and waited some more. Wearing a white T-shirt, shorts, a West Virginia University cap and an earlier incarnation of his bushy beard, he kept checking his cellphone at his NFL draft party, held at a relative's house in New Jersey and attended by scores of family and friends.

Neild (95), who nearly wasn't taken in the 2011 NFL Draft, made a huge splash in his debut. (Photo: Associated Press)

It soon became apparent that "draft party" might be a misnomer. The seventh and final round was coming to an end. It wasn't until the 253rd pick — next-to-last in the entire draft and just one spot ahead of "Mr. Irrelevant" — that the phone rang. It was Washington Redskins defensive line coach Jacob Burney.

"I was a little nervous," Neild said. "I got my initial call from coach Burney, I was inside and I was talking to him and I lost service — and I ran outside just to try to call him back. It was a long day. It was a very long day."

Relieved that he was indeed wanted by an NFL team, Neild went down to the basement for the celebration. Someone started a chorus of "Hail to the Redskins." Neild was fighting tears as he was hugged by his father, who then proposed a toast. His second cousin captured it all with a video camera and, naturally, posted it on YouTube.

Such scenes are a dime-a-dozen on draft day, but Neild kept his story going. He made the Redskins' 53-man roster, surprisingly beating out Anthony Bryant to win the backup nose tackle spot behind Barry Cofield.

But that was just the warm-up act. On Sunday, in his NFL debut, Neild sacked Eli Manning twice in the Redskins' 28-14 win over the New York Giants.

That's right — two sacks. And he was only on the field for eight defensive plays. He's the first Redskins rookie to have multiple sacks in his first NFL game since at least 1982, when sacks became an official statistic.

"I told him, at this pace," Cofield said, "he'll be a Hall of Famer."

Right now, he's an instant celebrity. Everyone wants to know about the native of Stroudsburg, Pa., who had only six sacks in four years with the Mountaineers and has been nicknamed "Truck" since he was in the sixth grade. His sudden fame has brought him a new set of monikers this week, including "Bam Bam" and "Pocono Punisher."

"I was always a big kid," Neild said. "Playing basketball, I used to foul out of games with, like, five charges."

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