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Neal ready for Notre Dame

Jun 18, 2012, 1:48 PM EDT

Davonte Neal AZ

After a recruitment that was high on drama and excitement, Notre Dame fans hope Davonte Neal brings the same thing to the football field as he enrolls in summer school today. Neal, who flew into South Bend on Sunday, represents one of the best options to walk in and contribute in an offense that’s desperately looking to fill the production void Michael Floyd has left behind now that he’s wearing an Arizona Cardinals uniform.

At 5-foot-10, 175-pounds, nobody is going to confuse the diminutive Neal with the former Irish star. But Neal’s pedigree is every bit as impressive as Floyd’s was coming out of high school. Neal’s prep exploits are well known, but worth mentioning again. Two-time Gatorade state player of the year. An all-region player as a freshman star receiver and defensive back at Laveen Cesar Chavez before transferring to Chaparral High in Scottsdale, where his team won back-to-back-to-back championships. Wondering about his speed? Neal anchored the state-record 4×100-meter relay, the fifth-best time nationally, as a true freshman.

With Neal leaving Arizona after an incredible prep career, he caught up with former Notre Dame star Bertrand Berry last Friday on his radio show to discuss moving on to South Bend. He was asked pointedly on what his goals were entering his first season with the Irish.

“My goals are to just do my part,” Neal said. “Do what I can for the team. Do what’s best for the team. If that means being a starter and the coaches put me on the field, then that’s what’ll happen. I’m looking to go up there and have fun, contribute for the team, and do what’s best for the team.”

Neal’s response is more polished than some might expect from a guy that got a ton of bad press for not showing up for his own press conference to announce his college decision at his grade school. It was a situation he learned from, and one that’ll likely help as he comes under an even more intense microscope in South Bend. But as he prepares for that scrutiny, Neal has also had an unlikely mentor in the process helping him along: Michael Floyd himself.

His relationship with the former Irish receiver has flourished with both being in the Phoenix area, and has helped give Davonte an idea of what life will be like under the Golden Dome.

“Mike and I have talked a lot and he has told me what to expect and how Notre Dame will help me succeed, not just in footballbut in life,” Neal told the Arizona Republic’s Richard Obert. “That is what I was always looking for in a college. I know some colleges, it’s all about football. But Notre Dame makes sure you do your class work and you do it well. They teach you priorities.”

Neal will have a few months this summer to help with the adjustment period from high school to college, an adjustment worth watching for someone that spent time at three different high schools in the past four years. On the field, it looks like Neal will focus his efforts at wide receiver, with the running back depth chart stacked and the Irish willing to roll the dice with what they have at cornerback. (There isn’t much doubt that Neal could play corner, but the Irish staff thinks Neal might be too good on the offensive side not to play there.)

With fitness tests and classes all set for today, it’s total immersion for Neal and his fellow freshmen. It also could be the start of a highly-anticipated Irish career.

  1. ndrocks2 - Jun 18, 2012 at 2:12 PM

    Did his dad come with him? It would appear we have two people to keep happy for him to stay with the program. I hope I am wrong but I expect some kind of dad/son issues before he graduates in four years for ND to deal with. Would be great for him to come in without any issues, he looks like he can contribute right away and we need the speed wherever BK see fit.

    • 808raiderinparadise - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:34 PM

      Just be grateful he didn’t commit to Houston.

    • paiten34 - Jun 19, 2012 at 4:27 AM

      NDrocks,

      Just so you know Neal has spent most of the last two years living away from his family. He has been living at a teammates house near Chaparral so he could play football there. That is why he left Chaparral after this past football season. He has time away from his family and is mentally strong. He is a very devoted football player and his highlights don’t do him justice. He is much stronger than he looks and breaks tackles running through players arms. Neal isn’t like other players I could mention who need to be around family, he is no mamas boy. Neal knows the value of being around his teammates making them and him as successful as possible. Trust me Devonte will be a success at Notre Dame.

      • nudeman - Jun 19, 2012 at 10:38 AM

        There is ZERO doubt that he will thrive ON the field at ND
        That isn’t his biggest challenge

  2. seanb20124 - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:32 PM

    Glad he made it

  3. brazilianirish - Jun 18, 2012 at 4:39 PM

    Welcome, Davonte. Enjoy your First Year of Studies… Talking football, he will probably play as a slot receiver… We need a wideout. That remains a question mark.

    • bernhtp - Jun 18, 2012 at 6:13 PM

      You usually want a tall and strong receiver out wide, but Davante’s speed is such that he can get extra separation to compensate for the lack of size. It will be interesting to see how Kelly uses him.

      • turknd - Jun 18, 2012 at 7:34 PM

        I agree. I just watched his 2011 highlights and his acceleration is incredible. Also, great move in traffic and space.

      • bernhtp - Jun 18, 2012 at 11:51 PM

        I want to see Golson or Hendrix hit Neal on a 50-yd fly post as he runs away from the corner and past the safety. That will elevate my mood and get the blood flowing.

        Looking at Neal’s highlight video, he does seem to closest thing we’re had to Raghib in a very, very long time. Rocket was incomparable – talk about someone that got my blood flowing – but Davonte does have serious wheels.

        http://www.onefootdown.com/2012/6/18/3094311/favorite-college-sports-highlight-raghib-rocket-ismail

      • brazilianirish - Jun 21, 2012 at 2:29 AM

        You´re right. Davonte can play and exceed our hopes. I would like to see another Golden Tate…

  4. gtizzo - Jun 18, 2012 at 9:55 PM

    kick return team Keith,

    Get him out there catching kicks. ND needs a solid kick returner again something they have missed. Neal could follow in the foot steps of Ismail and Tim Brown and maybe carve out a name for himself. I had a tape of Ismail returning the kick against Colorado all those years ago. I use to shut off the tape just before they could call the whole thing back for a clip that never happened. Great job on the article Keith!

    • bernhtp - Jun 19, 2012 at 2:50 PM

      That was a bizarre season and game. First, you had the whole Sal Aunese thing – the Colorado QB that died after knocking up Coach McCartney’s daughter. Then you have the absolute stupidest coaching call in the history of sports when Colorado, with a the lead and a minute left, kicks off to the Rocket instead of kicking it out of bounds. The bad call saved him. Wasn’t that also the year when they won a game because of getting a fifth down at the end of a game? Anyway, they must have paid a bunch of money to officials that year.

      • 9irish - Jun 19, 2012 at 3:37 PM

        God….thanks for reminding me! I was in Saudi Arabia at that time, so I didn’t have to suffer thru it. They got screwed out of that one and in 1993. One thing about BCS, if that had existed in 93 they would’ve played Florida State AGAIN, to settle the deal. This kid could be another one of those that just terrifies people, a TD waiting to happen. That would be good.

  5. yaketyyacc - Jun 19, 2012 at 3:03 AM

    gtizzo, please don’t remind me of that phantom clip. it is a credit to have davonte on the ND team.
    he is a level headed young man, possessing great talent. He is getting the best in Notre
    Dame, and Notre Dame is getting the best in him. a win win for sure.

  6. alsatiannd - Jun 19, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    Davonte Neal has to be the next Rocket Ismail. No pressure.

  7. janelasdedeus - Jun 19, 2012 at 10:00 AM

    Why is it that I feel like drinking kool aid every summer… even though it hasn’t satisfied me in decades?

    • 1historian - Jun 19, 2012 at 10:34 AM

      ditto

  8. fnc111 - Jun 19, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    To me this is the summer before the start of the strangest ND football season since I’ve been following. If everything goes right they could go 10-2. If we find out there truly aren’t any playmakers ready to step up at QB, WR, or CB this could be a year similar to 2003/2007 record wise. After the awful coaching job in some games so far in his Irish career Kelly surely is feeling the heat and now doesn’t have the opportunity for a rebuilding year with Golson because of the unreal losses to Tulsa, Michigan and USF. I’m guaranteeing eventually he and Martin settle on Rees long term with Hendrix doing some Tebow wildcat action inside the 10 yard line. Three things for Kelly to stay off the hot seat: let Neal touch that ball any way possible throughout the games, beat Michigan and win 8 games again. He does that I’m partying in the streets because if the recruits understand that’s eight wins against this schedule they will be able to block out chatter from urban the negative recruiter.

  9. Ted Skroback - Jun 20, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    Hope he is awful with the Irish his recruitment process was sickening to say the least

  10. seanb20124 - Jun 24, 2012 at 7:21 AM

    Can we get some new stories?

  11. fnc111 - Jun 24, 2012 at 3:54 PM

    You will get nothing and like it.

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