Neel grew up in Sumter County, played football at Livingston University, and served in the U. S. Navy. He spent 33 years as a sports artist at the Post-Herald, and switched to the Birmingham News for one year.
In 1957, Neel's illustration for the cover of the Auburn Tigers football media guide included the first appearance of the tiger character that would come to be known as "Aubie". Neel's Aubie began walking upright in 1962 and wore a blue tie and straw hat in a 1963 appearance. He continued to appear on every home-game program through the 1976 season (a period during which Auburn had a 63-16-2 home record). His image was retired from game programs for the 1977 season, but reappeared on the cover for Auburn's last home game at Legion Field on November 30, 1991.
Neel's drawing were sent to a manufacturer for an unofficial "Aubie" costume which debuted in February 1979. Neel was also consulted by performer Barry Mask that fall for advice on the character's personality.
- Anthony, Chris (July 25, 2012) "Aubie creator Phil Neel dies at age 84." Opelika-Auburn News
- Phil Neel cover gallery at WeagleWeagle.com