Neil Putman: ‘It’s a journey and I’m enjoying every minute of it’

Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune

Neil Putman proudly shows off his new learner’s permit. (Christy Perry for The Cullman Tribune)

CULLMAN – Back in July, The Tribune sat down with Neil Putman with the Cullman County Revenue Office. Neil is a client of Flourish, a nonprofit organization that helps individuals with developmental disabilities gain independence. Neil suffered a traumatic brain injury as a child and had been told by doctors that he might not live to see his 20s. (

Neil had other plans saying, “Doctors don’t know everything. Only God knows!”

This past Friday, Neil achieved one of his biggest goals since finding his dream job. Neil passed his driver’s permit test.

Neil explained, “I have the date written down and wish I had written the time too. We had a pizza party once I found out I had passed. I had the address memorized but I was so excited that when the pizza guy asked for the address, I totally forgot it!” 

Neil is a strict vegetarian and lover of all hot peppers, so he ordered a spinach alfredo pizza with jalapeños and a pepperoni with extra cheese for his co-workers. 

The excitement led Neil to Mitch Smith Chevrolet after work Friday.

Neil said, “I just stood there looking at all the cars. I found one I really liked: a blue automatic Toyota Sierra. My grandmother had an automatic Toyota car before she died. She let me drive it once so that’s what I picked out.”

Neil has a budgeting plan in hopes of buying the car but knows he still has to learn and get a license. 

Flourish is helping Neil with all the paperwork needed to begin using his permit. 

One of the people Neil wanted to specifically thank is (Cullman County Revenue Commissioner) Barry Willingham, saying, “He was waiting for me to pass the test and he was so excited for me. Barry told me, ‘Now I’m going to have to teach you how to drive.’ I’d do anything for Barry Willingham. I’ve never met a man like him before and if there is anything he can teach me, I want to learn it from him. I’m sticking to him like glue because I want to know everything he knows.”

Neil has a message for everyone: “I am finally reaching my dreams and discovering new ones. It’s OK to have hopes, ambitions and dreams. What you see and want in your heart and mind you can have if you work hard. With God all things are possible. I thank God every day that he helped me to prove the doctors wrong, and it’s a blessing to be able to possibly inspire other people. When people tell you that you can’t do something or that it’s too hard just remember, they don’t know your spirit, your mind or your destiny. They aren’t wearing your shoes! They want to be God in your life, but they aren’t.”

Neil plans to continue working on his to-do list. He wants a driver’s license, a car, CPR certification, anatomy and other classes at Wallace, and certification as a personal trainer.

Neil said of his future, “It’s a journey and I’m enjoying every minute of it. Jesus Christ was the light in this world when he was here on Earth. As Christians, Jesus lives in our hearts and it’s up to us to be the light in this dark world. I can be that light. I am proof.” 

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