Apr 10, 2013, 11:08 AM EDT
After deciding to walk away from Notre Dame to be closer to his girlfriend and newborn daughter, Davonte Neal will play next season for Rich Rodriguez and Arizona. The 5-foot-9 slot receiver was down to the Irish and Wildcats before dramatically choosing Notre Dame in a whirlwind recruiting process. Now he’ll come home and add an intriguing piece to the former Michigan coach’s spread offense.
As he has been from the start, Jason Sapp of BlueandGold.com has been all over this story, getting quotes from Neal on the decision-making process. While some rumors had Neal looking at UCLA or USC, the transfer back home should assist his case in securing immediate eligibility from the NCAA.
This from Sapp, who spoke with Neal directly:
“The primary reason I chose Arizona was because it was close to my family and my daughter can come see me everyday – that was the most important to me and having that family support,” Neal said. “The way Coach Rodriguez throws the ball around is amazing. They do it the entire game. I’ll have an opportunity to play inside and outside receiver in the offense. He does know how to get the ball in his players’ hands and from there they make plays.”
Neal has always been focused as an individual, but the addition to his family presents a whole new meaning to his world – both present and future.
“Having Baylee in my life just opens the door for me to be a better man,” he said. “It allows me to develop more responsibilities. I’ll become more of a man balancing school, football and having a baby.”
Neal was the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Arizona. He’ll reunite with his Chaparral high school coach, Charlie Ragle, who is now coaching tight ends for Rodriguez.
In a pretty class move, the Neal family released this statement through Blue & Gold:
We’d like to offer our sincerest gratitude to Coach Brian Kelly, his staff, the student body, and the entire Notre Dame family for all the support they’ve shown us, not only in the past few weeks, but over the past year.
Our experience as part of the Notre Dame football team and community surpassed all of our expectations. From the opening game in Dublin, Ireland, against Navy to the National Championship, we know we were part of something very special. And we have all the confidence in the world that the Notre Dame football program is positioned to have tremendous success in the years to come.
We wish we could be a part of that moving forward, however, Davonte’ has decided after very difficult consideration that the most important thing for him and our family is to be as close to his new-born daughter as possible.
Over the past year, we have developed some great friendships within the Notre Dame community and look forward to staying in-touch with those who have given us so much. We want to take this opportunity to wish Coach Kelly and his outstanding program all the best next season and down-the-road. The Irish will forever be in our hearts and a part of our lives.
All the best and Go Irish!