It will be a somber day for the Brahmas family when they induct another athlete into the Pierce College Sports Hall of Fame this May.
Neal Sweeney, a former Pierce College wide receiver who was a junior college All-American in 1963 and 1964 before transferring to Tulsa University before being drafted to the Denver Broncos in 1967 will be inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame almost six years after his death. He was murdered in 2008.
Sweeney, who was a businessman in the oil industry after his playing career, was shot and killed in his office in Tulsa, Oklahoma on September 6, 2008 by Terrico Bethel. After a three year investigation, the mastermind behind the murder, Mohammed Aziz, a former customer of Sweeney, was sentenced to 32 years and a half life in prison.
“It destroyed my brother’s family. They were an all-American family,” Neal Sweeney’s little brother Bill Sweeney said.
For little brother Bill and the Sweeneys it was a loss that no one saw coming. A life that had been fulfilled through a tremendous work ethic and dedication to the people around him, yet had been cut short due to the actions of one angry person. Bill continues to live on though and is always open to sharing the story of his older brother.
“From when we were kids I looked to him and I always tagged along with him wherever he went,” Sweeney said. “He was everything you wanted a big brother to be. Every kid wants an older brother to look up to and I literally did. I was a short, fat kid and my brother was always a foot taller than me. Not just his stature, but the kind of guy he was. I was always proud of him.”
Bill and Neal Sweeney’s parents ended up getting divorced when the boys were kids. According to Bill, with their father out of the picture, Neal became the father figure growing up.
“He started pushing me like he was my father,” Sweeney said. “He was the one that walked up to me and told me ‘I was going to lose my Fritos.’ I told him ‘No, I’m not.’ And he said ‘Yes, you are.’ And he took my food away from me and made me play football.”
Growing up, Neal Sweeney had the drive it took to succeed to be an athlete at an early age according to his childhood best friend Brick Durley.
“From the time I could remember, Neal was one of the fast men I ever saw,” Brick said. “He was a fierce competitor and never stopped working. He’d always be running on the track, or he’d go onto the sands of Zuma Beach and he’d run for miles and miles on end.”
Neal’s athleticism was good enough to earn himself a spot on the varsity team at Birmingham High School where he played with Bill and Brick. The lifelong trio would eventually go from Birmingham to Pierce College and then to Tulsa University where Neal emerged as a star.
During Neal’s two years with the Golden Hurricane, the team went 14-7 and in 1965 were the top ranked offense in the country. As a receiver he made 134 receptions for 1,623 yards and 11 touchdowns. During his junior year with Tulsa, Neal was the third ranked receiver in the nation, totaling 78 receptions for 883 yards and eight touchdowns.
“To this day I can’t remember anyone that worked harder than him,” Durley said.
Neal is now going to be enshrined among one of the Brahmas elite. Bill Sweeney and Brick Durley will be presenting in his honor.
“He is the perfect pedigree for the Pierce College Hall of Fame,” said athletic director Bob Lofrano, who is in charge of choosing the inductees. “He had a tremendous career at both Pierce and Tulsa before being drafted by the Denver Broncos. He is everything that symbolizes a Pierce College hall of famer.”