More than 30 of them gathered April 15 to celebrate their friendship with the 43-year old Neece, who has battled cancer since Oct. 1, 2014, and died last Friday, Nov. 13. He was presented with an ACU football helmet and a signed letter from his teammates. An excerpt:
Those present included John Bunton (’94), Mike Chapman (’93), Tim Chapman (’93), Bryan Clark (’94), Joseph Crook (’93), Scott Dillon (’94), Chris Fanelli (’93), Mike Fuller (’92), Todd Hardy (’95), James Hunter (’98), Eric Herm (’96), Craig Jones (’93), Lance Landry (’94), Brian McCormick (’93), Dale McKinnon (’95), Robb McKinnon (’91), Matt McMillon (’92), Hurley Miller (’93), Joey Nanus (’90), Jason Patterson (’92), Oscar Shorten (’93) Cory Stovall (’94), Brian Thomas (’93), Rusty Whitt (’94), David Wright (’93), and former coaches Bob Shipley (’84), Jerry Wilson (’71) and Mark Wilson (’84).
“Doug, I recently heard the true meaning of the word TEAM. The true meaning is FAMILY. It means brothers. It means sacrifice. It means laughter and it means pain. It means to lift when the other can’t. It means to kneel when the other needs the higher place. It means tears, it means prayer and it means memories – old and new. It means struggles and it means triumph. It means the arms to your left and the arms to your right. It means the steps taken before you and the feet behind you to catch you if you fall. It means a bond unbreakable, together forever and unconditional. Team means family. Team means love. Doug, we gathered here as a Team. Not just coaches, staff and players but as a real team, your team, members of a body so much stronger than most will ever know. We gathered for you as your family and we love you with all of our heart. We are here to lift and encourage, to laugh and to pray, to be there in your trials and to rejoice in your triumphs. Let this helmet remind you of all the battles your team fought with you and know there is never a war we won’t gladly fight again at your side.”
Two of Neece’s sons play football for state-ranked Albany High School, which advanced to the Class 2A Division II state title game last year and is once more in the playoffs. The night his father died, Drew Neece, a quarterback, threw five scoring passes – and led his team to touchdowns on its first six possessions – in an emotional 54-17 win over Haskell. Dax Neece plays defense for the Lions, whose season continues Friday night against Van Horn in Midland.
Read Neece’s full obituary here. Survivors include his wife of 21 years, Kim (Bartee ’95); sons Drew, Dax, Brooks and Bennett Neece; his parents, Art and Jane (Berry ’65) Neece; and brothers Greg Neece and Brad Neece.
His memorial service will be 2 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 17, at Beltway Park Church – North Campus (2850 Texas Highway 351, Abilene, TX 79601).