Former University Of Tennessee Football Star Dead At 27
By Jason Hall
July 9, 2021
Former University of Tennessee safety LaDarrell McNeil has died at the age of 27.
The Tennessee football program confirmed McNeil's death in a tweet shared Friday (July 9) morning.
"We are mourning the loss of VFL LaDarrell McNeil," the tweet stated. "Our thoughts and prayers are with him, his family and his teammates. LaDarrell will be dearly missed."
Former Tennessee defensive lineman and teammate Trevarris Saulsberry initially shared a post announcing McNeil's death on Thursday (July 8) evening.
"RIP LD you will be missed bro #33 #VFL," Saulsberry tweeted, along with a picture of McNeil during his collegiate career.
Fellow former safety Brian Randolph, who played alongside McNeil during all four seasons in Knoxville, also paid tribute to his college teammate.
"Ladarrell was the realest safety I ever played with and an even better person," Randolph tweeted. "Although it hurts that you're gone, I find comfort in knowing you are with Our Father."
"Wherever two or three gather as my followers, there I Am among them", says The Lord. Ladarrell was the realest safety I ever played with and an even better person. Although it hurts that you're gone, I find comfort in knowing you are with Our Father. pic.twitter.com/vfKXllqnNF— Brian Randolph (@Randyboy37) July 9, 2021
McNeil made 11 appearances and started at strong safety in his final seven games as a true freshman in 2012, earning a Freshman All-SEC Team nod.
The Dallas native remained a consistent presence in the Vols' starting lineup for the remainder of his collegiate career, recording 219 total tackles, five interceptions, 14 pass breakups, 2.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries from 2012-15.
McNeil experienced a neck injury just prior to his senior season which was initially believed to be career-threatening, but a second opinion from a doctor in Texas allowed him to start in the Vols' opener against Western Carolina weeks later.
McNeil scored a touchdown on a 57-yard interception during the Vols' 55-10 Week 1 victory and told reporters after the game that the preseason injury came during "a big hit" in practice.
“I took a big hit, a big collision, and I felt tingling and numbness down my arms,” McNeil said via GoVols247. “My neck was pretty swollen. But at the time I was able to heal up and get that second opinion and get the great news.”