Stephen Neal officially retired yesterday, ending one of the great "unexpected" careers in NFL history.

 

Neal parlayed a college wrestling career into a 10-year stint as a Patriots offensive lineman. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2001, he was starting within two seasons and was a lynchpin on the 2004 and '07 teams.

 

All that after a college career at Cal State-Bakersfield, where he didn't play a down of football.

 

The final tally? Eighty-one regular-season starts, 12 postseason starts -- and one truly inspiring story of making it in the NFL despite all odds.


(And he beat future UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar for the 1999 heavyweight national championship.)