Football a family tradition for five Salukis

By Thomas Donley

Football runs in the family for five Saluki players.

Senior running back Malcolm Agnew’s father Ray Agnew, Jr. played defensive tackle for 11 years in the NFL. Ray Jr. played for the New England Patriots, New York Giants and St. Louis Rams, with which he won Super Bowl XXXIV. He is now a scout for the Rams.

Malcolm’s brother, Ray Agnew III, played fullback at SIU and recently re-signed with the Cleveland Browns after being released on Oct. 20.


Malcolm said his passion for the game developed when his father played for the Rams. Malcolm’s first experiences around the game were with the likes of Marshall Faulk, Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. Being around professional talent at such a young age made him love the professional game.

“That’s always been my dream, to play in the National Football League,” Malcolm said. “Growing up around the game only made me want to do that more. I was motivated by what my father did and how hard he worked for me and my family. It just makes me want to do more and make it to the league.”

Freshman safety Ryan Neal’s brother Mike Neal plays linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Mike Neal won a Super Bowl ring with Green Bay in 2011. Middle brother Matthew Neal is a sophomore defensive end at Idaho.

Ryan Neal’s father, Michael, introduced him and his brothers to sports but didn’t push them toward any one in particular.

He said he and his brothers grew up competing with each other and broke each other’s records at Merrillville High School in Merrillville, Ind.

“We always set goals for each other,” Ryan Neal said. “Growing up, we were always very competitive. We were always trying to see who could outdo each other in high school. It was just kind of a fun thing to do.”

Mike Neal is second on the Merrillville’s all-time leaderboard with 17 career sacks. Ryan Neal is tied for second in single-season interceptions, with 9 in 2012.


Ryan Neal said his brother’s NFL success offers him a unique viewpoint on the game.

“It’s a cool experience because he gives me a little bit of knowledge and makes me wiser as I go through college,” Ryan said. “I know stuff a lot of my kids my age don’t know.”

Senior running back Ken Malcome has three cousins with NFL experience. His cousin Patrick Pass played eight seasons in the league, the first seven with New England, winning three championships during that span.

Another of Malcome’s cousins, Dwayne Harris, is a wide receiver in his fourth season with the Dallas Cowboys.

Quanterus Smith, Malcome’s third cousin, plays defensive end for the Denver Broncos and is in his second NFL season. Smith attended Western Kentucky.

Malcome said football is a valuable tradition in his family.

“I feel like it’s what all my family’s been doing forever,” Malcome said. “We all play sports. I feel like I’m a person who can avoid being a statistic for the rest of my family and hopefully do the same thing Dwayne and Patrick did.”

Sophomore outside linebacker Leonard Garron’s uncle Tony Galbreath was a running back who played 12 seasons for the New Orleans Saints, Minnesota Vikings and New York Giants.

Garron said his uncle’s triumphs inspire him to work toward his goals.

“He wasn’t the most athletic when he was younger, and I feel like I might not be the most athletic,” Garron said. “It gives me extra motivation to work hard and maybe get there one day.”

Senior defensive end Adam Brandt’s grandfather, John Brandt, was a member of the original Buffalo Bills in 1946. John joined the Bills as a rookie offensive tackle out of Marquette.

SIU recruiting coordinator David Elson said the Saluki coaches do not seek out players who have family with NFL experience. However, once they find out a recruit has relatives who played professionally, that does factor into their decision of whether to offer a scholarship.

“The positive thing that I’ve seen from guys that have that person in their life, (they) just seem to typically understand the process a little bit better of what goes into becoming that level of player,” Elson said.

Thomas can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @tdonleyde.