After the field
Medical school is a new journey for a former student athlete
By Meghan Mangrum
After making a name for himself on the football field, Michael McNeely has now begun a new adventure at the University of Florida: medical school.
McNeely, who played for Palm Harbor University High School during his high school career, wasn’t completely sure playing college football was a dream of his. He had no affiliation with the team when he first came to UF as an undergraduate studying applied physiology and kinesiology, but decided to keep training and attempt a spring walk-on. He won a spot on the team as a wide receiver, and for the next three years, had little play time.
But on Oct. 31, 2014, McNeely’s hard work finally paid off. During his senior year season, McNeely, a wide receiver, lined up on the field to be a holder during a field goal attempt — but the play was a fake. Instead of holding the ball for the kicker, McNeely ran 21 yards for a touchdown, contributing to Florida’s win over rival Georgia.
“It was a cool thing — it’s still kind of surreal to me,” McNeely said of the notoriety and attention he gained after the play. Having worked as a Publix bagger throughout his time in school, the previously unknown wide receiver wasn’t used to be recognized at work.
While working hard on the field and once a week at the grocery store, McNeely was also focused on academics. In 2013, McNeely was awarded the President’s Academic Award as a top student-athlete by the team. Now, his pursuit of another dream is paying off: He is completing his first year of
“It’s been great, just about every single part of it,” said McNeely, who started at the UF College of Medicine in the fall of 2015.
McNeely is particularly fond of the family atmosphere of his cohort and the program. He is also grateful for the hands-on opportunities he has already had with patients, including at Grace Medical Home in Orlando and at the Equal Access Medical Clinic in east Gainesville. The clinic is part of the UF College of Medicine’s Equal Access Clinic Network, a network of student-run free health care clinics for the underserved population of Gainesville.
“Since I’ve gotten to spend time with patients, it’s been fun,” McNeely said. “You get to learn about and from different people.”
McNeely credits his work ethic to both his parents, who he said set the standard to perform well academically during his childhood, and to his faith.
“God has given us all talents and we ought to bring him glory through that,” McNeely said.
As he explores different areas of medicine, McNeely is considering family medicine and the possibility of doing mission work in the future. No matter which direction he chooses, UF has become home.
“I’m just extremely thankful to be here,” McNeely said. “If I could do it all over again, I wouldn’t change anything.”