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Agholor, Neal more than just blue-chip recruits

Jan 24, 2012, 11:46 AM EDT

Nelson Agholor

Perusing the internet last night I stumbled upon two excellent articles written on two terrific student-athletes that Notre Dame is recruiting. While they come from opposite corners of the country, both Nelson Agholor and Davonte Neal have overcome incredible odds to find themselves in a place where they have their choice to attend some of the very best schools in the country.

Both articles (here’s the link to Agholor, here’s the link to Neal) deserve to be read, and give you some addition insight into two recruits you most likely know for their offer lists and potential spot on the Irish depth chart. As we looked at yesterday, the Irish face a battle for both prospects, but it’s one well worth fighting.

The Tampa Bay Times had a wonderful look into the life of Agholor,who came to the United States from Nigeria at the age of 5 when his parents were looking to provide a better life for their family.

Joey Knight of the TampaBay.com gives us a little more insight:

The Agholor family arrived in New York from Lagos, Nigeria — where Felix had been well educated and played high-level soccer — when Nelson was 5. Older brother Franklin said the family, which didn’t yet include youngest sister Ruby, had planned to settle in Maryland.

When those relatives couldn’t be reached, Franklin said, the family was taken in by other relatives in Carrollwood after boarding a train for Orlando, then a bus for Tampa. When Nelson’s parents found work, the family settled in a three-bedroom apartment near USF.

“My dad and my mom made sacrifices, whatever they needed to make, to move the family to the states,” said Agholor, who has an older brother (Franklin) in junior college and a sister (Valerie) in nursing school. “It’s just what they wanted in our lives, to be here.”

It was in the Suitcase City patch of northeast Tampa, besmirched by heavy crime and seedy influences, that Franklin says his younger brother developed a “street savvy” out of necessity and learned to think on his feet — traits that would assist him in the recruiting process.

Developing football skills, while playing for at least three local youth football teams, would come later. Initially, Franklin said, Nelson was awful.

“Nelson was about that big,” said Franklin, putting a centimeter between his thumb and index finger. “A toothpick. He was quick, he wasn’t fast. He just wanted to play. He just liked doing it because his older brother (Felix Jr.) and I played.”

His skills on the field obviously blossomed, with Agholor rushing for over 1,900 yards during his senior season. Whatever school he picks from  – Florida, Florida State, USC, Oklahoma and Notre Dame are his finalists — will be getting a classy young man in addition to one of the nation’s best players.

“I’m going to contact every school that I’m not going to and let them know I appreciate everything,” Agholor told the Times. “It’s going to be hard, but as a man, I think they have an obligation to get the best players to keep their jobs. I have an obligation to find the best school to help my job in the future.”

***

In Arizona, recruiting is still full speed ahead for Davonte Neal, who will still take official visits after Signing Day because he started the process after leading his Chaparral high school team to another state championship.

The 5-foot-10 prototype slot receiver could make an instant impact on any team’s offense, with the evidence found in the 16 rushing and 14 receiving touchdowns he scored this season. (He also played defensive back, a position he could easily play in college as well.) Helping guide Neal through the perils of recruiting is his father, Luke Neal.

As Paola Bolvin of the Arizona Republic writes, that wasn’t always the case.

Luke Neal had a difficult upbringing. His mom left when he was young and he was raised by his grandmother.

“One of my great accomplishments in life is that I made it through growing up in south-central Los Angeles and lived to tell about it,” he said.

He was a troubled teenager and a lost young adult. Even after Davonte’ was born, he didn’t stay in touch with his son’s mother.

“It’s a vicious cycle young African-American males goes through,” Luke Neal said. “We do this, and we have to stop. I’m doing everything I can to be the right father now.”

When Davonte’ was 9, Luke reached out to his son’s mother, who was living in Akron, Ohio, with hopes of connecting with his son. Luke was in a soul-searching place. He had coached at Dorsey High in Los Angeles and at several junior colleges but was looking for more in his life.

He spent two week with Davonte’ in Akron. After he left, the young boy asked his mom, Kito Williams, if he could come to Arizona and live with his dad.

After feeling confident Luke could handle the responsibility, she said OK. Davonte’ flew to Phoenix, and as soon as he stepped off the plane, Luke started crying.

“I thought, ‘Oh, my God, I’m going to be a parent,’” he said. “I think for the first time I had found true love.

“I don’t think people realize how much I love my son. In the past, it was easy for me to pick up and leave because that’s the hand I was dealt.”

Luke worked at a variety of places — including a finance agency and a car wash — but he still struggled at times. For several months, he lived in a friend’s U-Haul truck without anyone knowing.

He would borrow the truck from a friend who owned a mail store in Ahwatukee, saying he needed to move some things. He would pick up Davonte’ from middle school and drop him off at Williams’ home. He would park at the far end of the complex she lived in and sleep in the truck at night. He would pick up his son in the morning and take him to school before returning the truck.

No one ever knew.

The elder Neal makes it clear that he alone was responsible for the mistakes of his past, telling the Republic, “It’s very important to note I was a deadbeat dad. I want that to be known. I didn’t take care of my responsibilities then. I’m trying to do that now.”

With his family united in Arizona (Davonte’s mother moved to Arizona shortly after he did to stabilize the family), Davonte’ flourished as a student athlete, transferring from a neighboring high school to Chaparral, where the school has won back-to-back-to-back state championships. And after a rough start, Luke Neal has been the one guiding Davonte through a recruiting process that the elder Neal has experienced, from his coaching days back in Los Angeles.

“I’m so proud of who Davonte’ has become,” his mother Kito Williams told the Republic. “He’s grown into a young man. And I applaud his dad. The two have kind of grown up together.”

  1. dickasman - Jan 24, 2012 at 11:50 AM

    DAM IT!!! Why haven’t they signed on with ND yet then???? WHY WHY WHY WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY???

    They both seem great but specifically, Agholor seems like a great fit for ND…it’d be ashame if we lost him to any one of the Gangland Universities.

    • Keith Arnold - Jan 24, 2012 at 11:55 AM

      I can only assume you mean USC. But as per usual, you do a wonderful job of turning this into an uncomfortable situation with your comments.

      • dickasman - Jan 24, 2012 at 12:00 PM

        well since you brought it up let’s not forget…(whispers to ear) Florida, FSU, Auburn, Miami, LSU and sometimes Alabama

      • nudeman - Jan 24, 2012 at 12:35 PM

        Keith
        Prickly today?
        Mr. Asman just writes what we all know.
        Certain schools love to recruit the gangsta type. Thrive on it in fact.

        Agholor sounds like a terrific kid, and def NOT the gangsta type.
        Has world experiences that transcend the normal for kids of that age.

        He’d probably find a much more diverse, worldly and cerebral atmosphere at ND than the other places he’s considering which are all decent schools but much more regional in their makeup.

      • tedlinko - Jan 24, 2012 at 1:08 PM

        True Keith, Even when he makes a comment that might otherwise add value to the conversation, he manages to taint it with some kind of gratuitous smack. he’s not the only one on this board to do that, but certainly one of the most regular.

        One of the reasons I enjoy this board, aside from your writing, is that it is largely devoid of the mindless trash talk so prevalent elsewhere.

  2. dickasman - Jan 24, 2012 at 11:56 AM

    Sorry, I got super excited reading couple articles today….aaaaand back to hibernation!

    • jerseyshorendfan1 - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:15 PM

      If it lasts more than 4 hours consult a physician.

      • dickasman - Jan 24, 2012 at 3:16 PM

        Will do, thanks babe!

  3. runners00 - Jan 24, 2012 at 12:28 PM

    Great articles and profiles and, it sounds like, great young men.

    I was impressed with both kids. It sounds like Agholor has had a solid upbringing and would bring a lot to the university. His parents – I can’t imagine the sacrifices they made and the moving from Africa to New York and then trying to get to Maryland and etc. — all to make a better life for their kids. It’s just amazing.

    I was impressed with Devonte and his father, Luke, too. It’s absolutely the toughest job on the planet: parenting. It’s wonderful and exciting and uplifting and, well, terrifying. You have this human being that you’re completely responsible for and you’re so unequipped to handle that. Except that you’re not unequipped — you just feel this way.

    It sounds like Luke and Devonte are going through it well and Luke’s doing his best to make sure that Devonte lands at the best school for him. That’s what successful parents do (that and send their kids to Notre Dame, with its top-knotch education and super-high graduation rate among student athletes). Okay, sorry, I could not help myself. Go Irish!

    • oldestguard - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:54 PM

      These young men have alot to offer, and Kelly and ND have alot to give back in return.

      Time for The Closer to move in….

  4. gtizzo - Jan 24, 2012 at 1:56 PM

    Talk about RKG right Keith,

    These are kids Kelly could be proud to have on compass not just on the football field. Two young men who will be great leaders on and off the football field. Landing these two guys would make Brain Kelly not only a solid football coach but a great judge of character. Sounds like he is also a great ambassador of Notre Dame University also.

  5. kiopta1 - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Man I really hope Kelly and crew fight for these guys…even more so now that they seem to be young men with a caliber of character to match their football skill.

  6. kiopta1 - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:08 PM

    Word is wright picks Colorado.

    • dickasman - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:16 PM

      Figures….See Jimmy Smith. Also home biggest pothead in the world Rashaan Salaam and one of immoral coaches in Mcartney. RKG for Colorado, good for them!

      • seeeye - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:30 PM

        I thought Ricky Williams was the biggest pothead Heisman alum

      • dickasman - Jan 24, 2012 at 2:36 PM

        No no….Ricky never sat on and moved pounds and pounds of it. He was just a heavy user and very nice guy, actually. Salami on the other hand made Cheech look like an ND Alum.

  7. gtizzo - Jan 24, 2012 at 9:20 PM

    The people who make predictions on where these High School players end up don’t make a whole lot of sense. Whenever it seems close between a couple of schools, they always pick the home town school or conference in that area. The other reason normally has nothing to do with football. I have been looking at some predictions and the Irish don’t seem to be on anyone’s radar for high profile player. Doesn’t bother me when Irish will land a few then it will be a shock!! MY GOD WHY GO TO SOUTH BEND! The truth of the matter is they have no clue, they just make predictions to make themselves sound smart. These are 17 or 18 year old kids, they can change there mind in a month or week some even a day. The media attempts to make the Irish sound like there dead in the water, yet every year they are force to talk about Notre Dame. People need to understand if you have to debate if Notre Dame is a force in college football your already on the losing side. If ND weren’t a force in college football there would no need for the debate…right? Personally from a recruiting stand point I think Neal and Darby go Irish. I think Darby just wanted Brain Kelly at his door step before he made his decision. Neal likes the idea of playing with Gunner Kiel and I think that sends him to South Bend. There is also a rumor that the Irish are going after Poole a Florida commit, flipping that kid would be a bigger coup then Kiel. Will it happen…when it comes to ND… the man who will know is Keith Arnold.

  8. irishfan2791 - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:01 PM

    Greenberry, Ferguson, Agholor, and Neal would be by far the most potent attack in all of college football. Brian Kelly who is the closer of closers, needs to bang down there doors and get those signatures. Along with either Golson, Hendrix, or Keil these guys are going to light up scoreboards EVERYWHERE. If BK and the boys can secure these two, Notre Dame will have the top recruiting class in the country and be in prime BCS position for 2012 and National Championship position for 2013. Man I hope this happens!!!

    • pacific123ocean - Jan 25, 2012 at 6:13 PM

      WOW, that is quite a statement about a group of kids that have never played a down of college football. I have seen enough 5 star recruits turn in to busts, to put that kind of expectations on incoming freshman.

    • pacific123ocean - Jan 25, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      WOW, that is quite a statement about a group of kids that have never played a down of college football. I have seen enough 5 star recruits turn in to busts, not to put that kind of expectations on incoming freshman.

    • pacific123ocean - Jan 25, 2012 at 6:14 PM

      WOW, that is quite a statement about a group of kids that have never played a down of college football. I have seen enough 5 star recruits turn in to busts, not to put that kind of expectations on incoming freshman.

      • dickasman - Jan 25, 2012 at 6:18 PM

        we also have Devaris Daniels…I am expecting him to have a big year. I hope he doesn’t turn into Deion Walker…He shouldn’t. Daniels got more talent than Walker.

        But also all depends on the QB issue.

  9. ct111 - Jan 25, 2012 at 12:31 PM

    There is no point in getting 5 star WRs if Kelly can’t figure out this QB situation

  10. ndtoronto - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:10 PM

    I love everything about BK except his handling of the QB situation this year….hopefully 2012 everything will be figured out and ND will be a top program year in and year out…..One thing Kelly and his staff defintely can do is recruit and he knows the only way ND can compete for National championships is with a dominant defence year in year out……Hopefully Kelly and Co can reel in any defensive prospects they are still after…Offensively I dont believe Kelly needs the top recruits to do well just players that fit his system well….im sure sooner than later ND will have a offence as good as the ones in Kellys bearcat days…Lou Holtz did not start off guns blazing when he got here record wise and look what he built in the end…Kelly will do the same, expect a big step up this year

    • dickasman - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:24 PM

      Toronto, I couldn’t agree with you more which is why I was hoping that BK would hire a “true” bonafied quarterback’s coach instead of run game coordinator which he refuses to do because he wants 1000% control of the offense. You run a spread offense. You want to develop the quarterback and throw more, right? Why would you not want a QB coach helping you out? Why go out and hire a “run game coordinator”?

      Ego.

      • nudeman - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:34 PM

        I concur. Kelly fashions himself as something of a QB guru.
        I’m having trouble buying that after his TR love affair.

        BTW, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: It is not outside the realm of possibility that Rees starts the season in Ireland next year. When everyone predicted after the Stanford game that Hendrix would start the Bowl game, I predicted Rees. Right here boys.

        So if it happens, before you shut your TV off, remember where you heard it first.

      • dickasman - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:41 PM

        Nude, here we go…

        I disagree with your last statement. I do however agree with everything else. I do not think TR will be starting though. I pick Everette before TR. I predicted that Kiel will be redshirting but maybe not if he is really that good. When was the last time a “true” freshman led a successful team? Please jog my memory if you can. I do not remember. At least for this year, I think Kelly will start whoever will best run his offense “his way”. I realized that at some point last year that Kelly really like to “dictate” and “control” his QB’s. I believe really he’d like to start Golson and I think Golson has the edge, unless Golson comes out and starts thrown INT’s left and right. Then Rees or Hendrix will go in. He doesn’t “owe” a start to Kiel at least this year so I believe Kiel will not play much this year if at all.

      • dickasman - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:44 PM

        Ugh, you just made me remind myself of watching too many “kellyface”. You know that lobster face he makes when he yells da hell outta poor Rees after his 2nd INT in a quarter? I call that “kellyface” and I hate it. Kids tune that crap out real quick unless you’re winning. I’d much prefer a “players” coach but then, that hasn’t gotten us anywhere either so who knows. But generally, I have no patience for kellyface.

      • nudeman - Jan 25, 2012 at 8:15 PM

        dick
        I did NOT say I’m predicting he’ll start. Nor am I saying I think he SHOULD start.

        I said “it’s not outside the realm of possibility” that he will start.

        And after watching the confounding way BK managed the QBs all year, I don’t know how anyone can disagree with that.

        It’s definitely possible that Golson, who we all agree is the most talented (not incl. Gunner) will piss him off enough with “learning mistakes”, and BK will go back to the same old thing; the “Tommy gives us the best chance to win” bullshit. Especially against an opponent they should cream like Navy.

        For my money, the QB depth chart should be:
        Golson
        Hendrix
        Gunner
        Barratti
        Massa
        Tuitt
        Lynch
        Insert a couple other names here
        Rees

  11. dickasman - Jan 25, 2012 at 5:19 PM

    http://espn.go.com/college-football/story/_/id/7492921/ncf-alabama-bound-safety-landon-collins-picked-tuscaloosa-lsu-mother-dismay-espn-magazine?eleven=twelve

    Hey guys, especially those of you that call me racist and have blinders on. Here’s interesting article about Landon Collins. We ALL saw what happened at the under armour game.

    You can see CLEARLY how Nick Saban recruits kids. NFL and $$$.

  12. nudeman - Jan 25, 2012 at 7:33 PM

    Dr Asman, PhD Rear Emissions,

    No problem with the “kellyface”. He blew his biggest fuse against USF while we were all doing the same in our living rooms, then was pretty composed the rest of the year.

    For anyone turned off by that, go watch tapes of Lou, Lombardi, Ditka, Saban, Bo Schembechler, Woody Hayes, Parcells, Cowher and others who’ve won one or more championships.

    If you want Marion Campbell or Chan Gailey serenity, then be happy with a 4-8 season and quotes like “Well, we’re just gonna’ have to buckle down a little harder this week” after a 36-7 pasting.

    “In your face” has its place in football.

    • dickasman - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:10 PM

      Hahaha nude stop hitting on me like that! Ph d is sooooo hott! Im not saying nothing wrong with it but when you’ve gone 8-5 2 years in a row maybe he could be but more humble. I felt that Dayne and tommy both played scared to be coming to the sidelines and get reamed by him and eventually played worst trying to not make mistakes. We didn’t even have a buffer(qb coach) to pat the qb on the back after being reamed. I played ball in high school and we had a coach like that and nobody liked playing for the guy and we played scared. But it worked for us back in 1838 and we ran a wishbone and every head coach was like that. Today’s a different ball game.

      I’m just really hungry for a championship right now Id even consider mr integrity Jim tressel for a year if it means a ring. One time, just for once of love to see good trump evil, Catholics beating Protestants, just once. I see so many things wrong and evil today that I’d love to see nd win to let everyone know that it’s ok, you can be good and still accomplish your goals to the fullest.

    • dickasman - Jan 25, 2012 at 9:11 PM

      Hahaha nude stop hitting on me like that! Ph d is sooooo hott! Im not saying nothing wrong with it but when you’ve gone 8-5 2 years in a row maybe he could be but more humble. I felt that Dayne and tommy both played scared to be coming to the sidelines and get reamed by him and eventually played worst trying to not make mistakes. We didn’t even have a buffer(qb coach) to pat the qb on the back after being reamed. I played ball in high school and we had a coach like that and nobody liked playing for the guy and we played scared. But it worked for us back in 1838 and we ran a wishbone and every head coach was like that. Today’s a different ball game.

      I’m just really hungry for a championship right now Id even consider mr integrity Jim tressel for a year if it means a ring. One time, just for once i would love to see good trump evil, Catholics beating Protestants, just once. I see so many things wrong and evil today that I’d love to see nd win to let everyone know that it’s ok, you can be good and still accomplish your goals to the fullest.

      • ct111 - Jan 26, 2012 at 12:10 AM

        Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!

      • nudeman - Jan 26, 2012 at 10:55 AM

        My comeback there is why did Lou’s players not play scared? Lou not only yelled and screamed and turned purple, he grabbed facemasks.
        He also went undefeated and won a nat’l championship.

        I had a HS baseball coach who was a screamer, and many of us were afraid to make a mistake. So I get the point. But if Tommy Rees and Dayne Crist – 2 guys BK inherited – played scared, then they weren’t Kelly’s kind of player. I defended Crist for a long time, but now with a couple months’ perspective, it’s clear he was not mentally tough. Rees not only lacks mental toughness – as we all know he lacks physical skills.

        So don’t base everything on these 2 guys not being able to handle Kelly. Neither is very good.

      • dickasman - Jan 26, 2012 at 6:52 PM

        I am saying that while BK had horse manure for talent, he also coached like a horse manure.

      • dickasman - Jan 26, 2012 at 6:55 PM

        BK’s gotta turn the manure into a fertilizing soil but he failed. I don’t suspect that BK will be riding off in the sunset on the shoulders of his players anytime soon, if at all.

        Just my opinion. I don’t think that 2years is enough to judge whether we should fire a guy or not but its enough for me to see that he’s not a manure converter like I thought he was. *** Denny Green*** he’s not who we thought we were they said we was he is.

  13. 1historian - Jan 26, 2012 at 2:35 PM

    Kelly inherited Crist, & Hendrix and Rees were in the incoming recruiting class when he signed up.

    Golson was the 1st QB recruited by Kelly. Now he has recruited Gunner Kiel and even Sports Illustrated is excited by that.

    Kelly knows what he is doing – just get through the 1st few years of Weis’ players and then HIS players start to step up.

    8-5 & 8-5 – nothing to brag about when you are Notre Dame, but not that bad either – 2 bowl games, the bowl game losing streak broken, a freshman All-American on defense (when did THAT ever happen before?), getting a 5 star recruit from LSU,at the last minute, still in the battle for 4 & 5 star players in the last week.

    What is your problem, people?

    • nudeman - Jan 26, 2012 at 2:54 PM

      ihistorian

      I agree completely with one qualifier: I’m a little surprised at how frequently they looked poorly coached.

      Turnovers, penalties, inability to get plays in on time. This was not what anyone expected of Brian Kelly football. So 2012 will be revealing in determining if this was a 1 year anomaly or if he’s not the guy we thought he was.

      But overall, they’re a stronger program than they were 2 years ago and have better talent. Once they got Gunner, their biggest problem was solved. Even if they get no 11th hour steals on NSD, I still think they’ve got a good class of recruits.

    • dickasman - Jan 26, 2012 at 6:58 PM

      Well since you asked, I have this really strange weird sorey scalpey itchey thingy that won’t go away. Can I email you a pic and you can tell me what it is?

  14. leapingleprechaun - Jan 27, 2012 at 3:37 PM

    Both athletes sound pretty phenomenal when you speak to where they are at today….would love to have either or both: )
    Both will fit in regardless which University they attend…Would love to have at Notre Dame…Talk about being on National TV each and every week…Good opportunity for a Heisman and exposure…

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