Don McNeal played college football for Paul "Bear" Bryant and the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. He helped the team to consecutive national titles in 1978 and 1979, the latter year as team captain.
McNeal was drafted in the first round of the 1980 NFL entry draft by Miami, with the 21st overall pick. He appeared in and started 13 games during his rookie campaign, finishing second on the Dolphins with five interceptions (Gerald Small had seven) and one fumble. The team would finish 8-8, missing the playoffs for only the second time since the AFL/NFL merger.
In 1981, McNeal appeared in and started 12 games, helping the Dolphins to the AFC East title with an 11-4-1 record. The season would end when the Dolphins lost to the San Diego Chargers in the 1981 divisional playoff, 41-38 in perhaps the greatest game ever played.
McNeal was named the Dolphin's Player of the Year in 1982, starting every game and intercepting four passes, returning one for his first career touchdown in a week one victory against the New York Jets, 45-28. The Dolphins went on to compile a 7-2 record in a strike shortened season, winning three more games en route to a Super Bowl XVII matchup with the Washington Redskins. It was there that McNeal would be "posterized" by John Riggins, who ran through McNeal on a 4th and short late in the game and on to a 43 yards touchdown, sealing the Redskins 27-17 victory.
After sitting out the 1983 season with a lingering injury, McNeal returned in 1984, again winning the Dolphin's Player of the Year award. He intercepted three passes, returning one for a touchdown in a week four victory over the New York Jets, 44-7. The team rumbled to a 14-2 regular season record, winning two more games in the playoffs before succumbing to the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XIX, 38-16. McNeal appeared in 14 games, starting 13 (including the playoffs).
In 1985, McNeal lost his starting spot to first Paul Lankford and later William Judson. He would remain an important part of the Dolphins' defensive secondary for the next five seasons, retiring following 1989.
In total, McNeal appeared in 110 games for Miami, starting 48. He intercepted 18 passes, returning them for 163 yards and two touchdowns. He also recovered five fumbles.
McNeal is currently a pastor at New Testament Baptist Church, and also works as a drug rehab counselor and frequent public speaker.