Neville Hewitt knows a thing or two about hard work. The Miami Dolphins linebacker went through much of high school without his mother in the picture and very nearly saw his college football career end before his senior season. Somehow, he defied the odds, and is now battling for a starting position in the NFL.

Before he entrenched himself as a prominent piece of the Dolphins defense or became the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in 2014, Hewitt grew up in Conyers, GA, playing his high school football at Rockdale County. When he was 16-years old his mother was arrested and incarcerated for drug-related charges and he would up living with her ex-boyfriend. Things seemed to go along fine until his senior year when it became clear that Hewitt was going to wind-up at a junior college and not a big-time, football factory program.

Bills went unpaid, Hewitt said, and sometimes for a week or two there would be no water or electricity in the house. So he would shower at school or at the home of some friends; same thing with meals. It wasn’t an easy existence but one that paved the way for a work ethic that would become notorious.

He parlayed two standout years at Georgia Military College where he was a starter by his second game as a freshman into multiple college scholarship offers. But there was still no home for Hewitt, who would return to Conyers during a break from school and live with his grandmother or crash on a sofa of a family friend or in their guest room. Life wasn’t easy but all this time he kept grinding.

It is all he knew to do.

“Since I was like 12-years old, my mindset was to play in the NFL. Pop Warner coaches would say that too, they didn’t know what position, they thought maybe tight end,” Hewitt told Metro.

“But every time I competed, I felt like I was the best on the field. I knew they put on their pads, just like me. It didn’t make a difference, I wanted to play in the NFL.”

It was an unwavering work ethic, a heart-felt desire that took him to the NFL. Last year he signed with the Dolphins as an undrafted rookie free agent. He would go on to play in all 16 games, earning two starts and finishing with 39 tackles and an interception.

Hewitt could be primed for a bigger role this year.

Despite the production now, his NFL career almost never happened.

His senior year at Marshall he had surgery on his neck due to stingers in his left arm. There were times in class where he would be sitting there, taking notes and get a tingling sensation up and down his left hand. As a junior, he was suffering from stingers nearly every game; it was getting to the point where not only playing was difficult but simply sitting down became painful. Offseason surgery was the only option but with it came the possible derailment of his senior season.

The year before, his first season at Marshall after coming to the program from junior college, Hewitt was second on the team with 85 tackles and 2.5 sacks. He was primed for a breakout senior season.

But following the surgery he could barely bench press and thought about getting a medical redshirt. Instead, he rolled off what would be a tremendous season that included being named the conference’s defensive player of the year. He loves practice – “it is where you get better so you can play better” – but the injury caused him to spend more time sitting still, watching film.

Pretty soon he had his fellow linebackers in the classroom, watching tape with him. The film sessions became notorious; he would have his teammates locked in there for hours.

This offseason, Hewitt trained with Brian Martin of BMartin Sports in central New Jersey. He and the trainer spent time working on his quickness while also packing on some solid muscle in an effort to grab a hold of a starting spot with the Dolphins.

Hewitt and Martin spent hours each day training together on the field and in the weight room at a local college.

“Hard work got me here in the NFL and hard work is going to keep me,” Hewitt said. “And I believe hard work will take me to the next level.”