That’s about the most ringing endorsement you can get and Timothy Neal, a Health Education and Athletic Training-Physical Education graduate (Cum Laude ‘79), means every word of it.
Neal teaches at Concordia University Ann Arbor where he is also the director of the athletic training program. Additionally, he runs his own consulting firm, TLN Consulting, Inc. and he’s a medical spotter for NFL games and for the University of Michigan.
In 1975, he enrolled at Ohio University and knew within a week that he had made the right decision. Growing up a fan of the Cincinnati Reds, Neal had witnessed Larry Starr run out onto the field to care for injured players and thought it looked like an interesting career. Starr, the Reds’ head athletic trainer at the time, is a graduate of OHIO and Neal wanted to do the same.
“Right from the beginning, I knew OHIO was where I was meant to be,” said Neal. “I remember it being a challenging yet rewarding curriculum that I felt fully prepared me to enter the profession of athletic training. It was a great combination of classes and content material as well as hands-on field experience.”
Neal said he was taught “If you can’t talk it and you can’t do it and you don’t know it” and he uses that same philosophy today in his own classes.
Over the years, Neal has cared for any number of intense injuries. At the forefront these days are concussions and he advocates caution and conservative care for athletes who have experienced concussion.
“We need to be well versed in all the variables with concussions. Cognitive, emotional, balance, visceral … there are lots of variables to this continuum of concussions with long-term effects that are affected by repetition,” he said.
Neal is pleased that more and more people seem to be listening to the topic of concussions, not just scientists but athletic trainers, team physicians, parents and athletes as well. He said educating young athletes and athletic trainers continues as more information is gathered on the issue.
“OHIO is one of the top schools in the country in working hands-on with athletes,” said Neal. “Students get an up-close and personal understanding of the types of injuries they’re going to see in the field.”
Neal credits Fred “Fritz” Hagerman for instilling a love of teaching into him.
“He was instrumental in my development as a scholar in athletic training. I learned so much under his tutelage including a love for teaching. I teach now the same way I was taught. I highlight information and tell stories of why it’s important.”
One of the most important questions and lessons Neal utilizes for his athletic training students is “why are you here?” His answer: “You are here to take care of other people’s loved ones. You’re entering a professional world where you will take care of others’ sons and daughters.”
Ohio University holds a special place for Neal in his mind and also his heart. He was the first in his family to attend and graduate college and he met his wife, Anne, while in school. The two were married at OHIO’s Galbreath Chapel.
“My experience at OHIO defined me as a person,” he said.
Neal’s passion for learning had him reading up on material for the next quarter during breaks and that passion was willed to his daughter, Emily, and his son, Brooks, who also attended OHIO and also met his wife, Morgan, in class. Brooks Neal once held the role of director of sports marketing with OHIO.
Timothy Neal continues to try to give back to the school for which he could not be more grateful. He is a member of the Ohio University Alumni Association Board of Directors and in many of his dozens of publications, he makes sure to mention Ohio University.