When McMurry athletic director Sam Ferguson embarked on his search for the school's new head football coach, he said he was looking for an individual of high character, a strong knowledge of Big Country and West Texas football and someone with the breadth of experience to give the War Hawks' players the best opportunity for success. On Wednesday, Ferguson got his man as former Cooper High School standout Jordan Neal has agreed to return home to Abilene and become the 23rd head coach in McM football history.
Neal also played his college football locally as a quarterback at Hardin-Simmons under head coach Jimmie Keeling and offensive coordinator Alan Wartes.
He replaces Lance Hinson, who coached McMurry to a 14-35 mark over five years. The War Hawks were 2-8 this season.
"We have found a gem in Jordan Neal," Ferguson said. "He is a dynamic leader with a plan to Develop Champions for Life, while building a football program that will make our university community proud. Coach Neal and his wife Amanda are beloved in this city. Their return will excite this community and enhance the McMurry brand. Coach Neal will lead us to many wins both on and off of the field.
"We are thrilled to add Jordan, Amanda, and daughter Adriana to the War Hawks Family."
As for his part, Neal is relishing the chance to return to his hometown.
"The opportunity to come home to Abilene is a special one," Neal explained. "There is no place like home, and there is no place more special to me and my family than Abilene. I was born in Abilene, grew up here watching my older brother, Deric star in athletics at Cooper and HSU, and I also played at Cooper and HSU.
"But I spent a lot of time in my youth on the McMurry football field, running the bleachers at Wilford Moore Stadium, working out in the weight room on campus, and playing pick-up on the basketball courts of Kimbrell Arena. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to get to be a college head coach in my hometown, and I'm overwhelmed with the joy of getting to do it at McMurry University. I could not be more proud to represent McMurry football as a lifelong Abilenian."
Neal is coming to the War Hawks after spending the past six years as the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at Hendrix, as the school reintroduced football after a 53-year hiatus. According to HC head coach Buck Buchanan, Neal has called "every offensive play from when we started back in 2013 until this fall; I just let him do his thing."
And that "thing" virtually instantly generated one of the most productive offenses in NCAA Division III. Neal-led units have earned four NCAA III annual statistical champion honors: 2016- Passing Offense (with a Division III record 600 yards per game); 2016- Passing Efficiency; 2014 & 2016- Pass Completion Percentage.
Prior to joining the Hendrix staff, Neal was the offensive line coach/player development coordinator at Texas Lutheran in 2012, setting multiple school records and an ASC-leading offense. From 2008-11, Neal was the offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Howard Payne, generating the top offense in the ASC in 2009.
Neal has been the winning head coach in the Dream Bowl, a premier All-Star Game in Virginia Beach, Virginia, in all four years of its existence.
As for his own career in leading the HSU offense, he was a four-time ASC Academic All-Conference honoree. Neal was a three-time All-ASC player, earning second-team accolades in 2003 and 2004, as well as first team in 2006, when he was also voted the circuit's Offensive Player of the Year. He held 16 single-season or career records at HSU, including the career passing yards record with 8,347. Neal was a finalist for the 2006 Gagliardi Trophy, emblematic of the top player – athletically and academically – in NCAA Division III football.
Neal graduated from HSU with a bachelors of behavior science in 2005 with a 3.45 grade point average.
After graduation, Neal played professionally in Malmo, Sweden with the Limhamn Griffins. He also coached the quarterback and receivers of the junior club. While there, the Griffins won the Swedish American Football Federation title and Neal was named the league's Import Player of the Year.
As a prep at Cooper High School, graduating in 2001, Neal played under legendary coach Randy Allen. He was a two-year varsity letterman, earning first team All-State 5A in 2000. He was also the District 4-5A Offensive Player of the Year in 2000 and the Big Country FCA Football All-Star Game Offensive Player of the Game.
Neal also got it done in the classroom for the Cougars, graduating with a 4.0 grade point average.
"It is a tremendous honor to be invited to lead the football program at McMurry University," Neal said. "I'm very grateful to president Sandra Harper and athletic director Sam Ferguson for giving me this opportunity. I am excited about moving my family home to Abilene, I am ready to get to work building on the winning traditions that have been established in the past, and I am looking forward to taking McMurry football to new heights. I believe in the strategic vision of the administration, and I believe that McMurry football's best is yet to come. It's a great day to be a War Hawk!"
Neal and his wife Amanda have been married since 2007. The couple has a daughter, Adriana (18 months).