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Griffin Neal has become the leading man for Concordia's football team

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Griffin Neal has become the leading man for Concordia's football team
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Moorhead

Griffin Neal texted his brother and sister the night before Concordia football media day, and asked if he should keep his two-tone Mohawk haircut.

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“Absolutely not,” was their response, Neal said with a smile.

“There is still a little bit of dye left in the hair,” Neal added, referring to the hint of maroon on the left side of his scalp.

While Neal toned down his hair to meet with the media Tuesday at Jake Christiansen Stadium, he’s comfortable being noticed. The senior quarterback is entering his third season as the starter.

The former Fargo South standout is coming off a junior year when he set the Concordia record for passing yards in a season with 2,158.

“Griffin has a little bit of a swagger,” Cobbers head coach Terry Horan said. “He goes to a different beat, and that beat just reeks of confidence.”

At 6-foot-4, 202 pounds, Neal has a big frame and a big arm to match. He has 3,651 career passing yards entering his final season and is on pace to eclipse Ethan Pole (1995-98) for the school record for passing yards in a career. Pole passed for 4,889 yards at Concordia.

While Neal’s passing numbers are impressive, they aren’t what he’s focused on this fall. The team has had 8-2 records the past two seasons, but hasn’t made the Division III playoffs in Neal’s time as a starter.

Neal also hasn’t played for a team that has won a Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title.

“I’m not going to go in 20 years, ‘Hey, remember when I broke the passing record?’” Neal said. “It’s going to be, ‘Hey, remember when we won a MIAC championship and won some playoff games.’ ”

The Cobbers last made the D-III postseason in 2005. They last won an MIAC championship in 2004.

“Anything short of that is going to be a major disappointment for us,” Neal said.

Neal leads an offense that returns eight starters and averaged 34.2 points per game last season. That scoring output ranked second in the MIAC.

The Cobbers started their fall camp last week. The day before the first practice is when Neal got a Mohawk haircut with a maroon-and-gold dye job.

Neal said it has become a tradition for veteran players on the team to get Mohawks at the start of fall camp. He wanted to put an extra twist on his hairdo for his final season.

“Griffin always finds a way to go above and beyond,” senior fullback Domenic Fraboni said with a laugh. “You’re not really surprised when Griffin goes out and does something like that.”

Since Tuesday was the day the Cobbers also took their senior head shots, Neal decided to shave away the eye-catching look he had created.

“I thought I’d represent the coaches and the family and try not to embarrass them too much,” Neal joked.

While Neal isn’t afraid to step outside the box, he’s a calming influence during games. Fraboni said there are times when his teammates want Neal to let loose a little more after an exciting play.

“He’s never one who celebrates a lot after he throws a touchdown, runs for a big touchdown,” Fraboni said. “We tell him ‘We want you in the end zone with us jumping around a little bit.’ ”

Neal has always tried to play with composure and not get too caught up in emotion during the course of games.

“I think it’s good to stay level-headed at times,” Neal said. “I don’t do it consciously. It’s part of how I play the game. When there are huge plays at the end of the game, I will get excited. When you throw a touchdown in the first quarter … you don’t want to get too emotionally high.”

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Eric Peterson
Peterson covers small college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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