Chaparral duo receives UA jerseys
The American Family Insurance presents the Under Armour All-America Game selection tour hit Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral on Tuesday to honor not just one but two elite athletes. Quarterback Connor Brewer and athlete Davonte Neal, teammates and friends, eagerly accepted their invites to play in the Under Armour All-America Game.
"This has been a dream of mine ever since I was a freshman," Brewer said. "It's such a huge honor for me and I can't wait to get on the field and compete against all the other great athletes that will be playing in the game. Our school has developed a nice pipeline with this game and I'm happy to continue that.
"When I was a freshman, Craig Rowe and Taylor Lewan both played in it and had a great time. That's what got me excited about it. Then last year, we had Andre [Yruretagoyena] and our long snapper in the game and they came home talking about how much fun they had and how competitive the game was and now I'll have my chance to experience it all for myself."
Neal took a slightly different route as he actually committed to play in the Army All-American game as a sophomore before backing out and deciding to play in the Under Armour game over the summer.
"It wasn't anything against the Army game, I just felt like this was a better opportunity for me," Neal said. "I committed to that game so early, before I even knew as much about the UA game. Once I compared everything, it became an easy decision for me. I'm excited to get down to Florida and challenge myself against the best of the best. This is the last high school game I'll ever play and with my high school coach, Charlie Ragle is on staff, and Connor is going as well, it's going to be a special time for me."
The Firebirds will be gunning for their third straight state title and have always had talented players on the roster. Saying that, Ragle still calls Brewer and Neal once-in-a-lifetime players to coach.
"I don't think I'll coach anyone as good as these guys ever again," Ragle said. "It has really been a dream come true for me to have these guys because they're not just great players but great kids. Having two kids like this, I'll never forget the experience.
"With Connor, his work ethic and attention to detail is unmatched by anyone. He started here as a sophomore, which is rare and had his best game that year in the state title game so that tells you something. When I think of Davonte, two words come to mind: passion and love. He loves to play the game and I have a love for him that most people will never understand because of how much we've been through together. He's an amazing player and I'll never see another one like him again as long as I coach."
Although equally talented and both rated among the nation's top 40 prospects, there aren't many other similarities between the two standouts. Brewer is more introverted, reserved and shares a deep faith with his family that has bonded them together.
"I have two older brothers who played baseball at UCLA and an older sister who swims at Texas," Brewer said. "My younger sister plays volleyball, so sports have always been very important to us but it's our faith in God that is really the key to our family.
"We all realize that our ability to play sports comes from God alone and we're thankful for that. That faith ties our family together and it's why we're so close and tight knit. It's a big reason why I committed to Texas, I know I can live out my faith there because of how strong the family atmosphere is there.
Neal plays and talks with a lot of swagger, on and off the field. He's far from cocky but confident, hoping to not only play on both sides of the ball in the Under Armour game but in college as well.
"Growing up, I always competed against players two and three years older than me," Neal said. "I'm the kind of player that needs to be challenged to play to the best of my ability. I'm a very competitive person and I feel I'm a premier athlete and it's an awesome challenge to try and play on both sides of the ball but I feel I'm up for it.
"My whole mindset is, when I get to college, I'm not going to give the coaches a chance to play me on just offense or defense. I'm going to come in so well-conditioned physically and have my mind right where I won't allow myself to get tired. People always ask me if I want to play receiver or corner in college and when I say both, they look at me like it can't be done but I'm going to show everyone it can be done."
Brewer committed early to the Longhorns looking to avoid the distraction that recruiting can be. Neal is not even close to having a top 10 list and will wait until the end of the year before he focuses on what schools to visit.
"I'm looking for a school that has a family atmosphere to it, where I can still have close contact with my dad and a place where I know I'll be taken care of. My dad is a former coach and knows a lot of people. More than anything, he wants to make sure I'll be protected and taken care of so his ties to some of the schools recruiting me will be a huge factor in where I end up."
Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.
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