Top 10 WR Neal sits out signing day
While the spotlight shined on his fellow top prospects, Davonte Neal went to class
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- It's Tuesday night, the night before signing day and, as expected, Twitter is blowing up. Recruits all over the country will make one of the most important decisions they'll ever make in just a few hours when they put pen to paper and decide where they'll be spending the next four to five years of their life.
The tweets span every emotion you can imagine. From the dramatic -- "Please pray for me, I have no idea what I'm going to do" -- to the scary -- "I think I might be making the biggest mistake of my life." For the No. 8 ranked player in the nation, Davonte Neal (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral), there is no such drama. Neal, in fact, still has six schools on his list and isn't even done taking official visits yet.
"This was always my plan," Neal said. "I want to take my time with the process and give every school an equal opportunity. I've already visited Notre Dame, Ohio State, Arkansas and North Carolina, and I have a visit set with Arizona for February 10. Oklahoma is still in the mix, as well, and I'm going to listen to them, too."
Neal takes in an early dinner Tuesday night and then fields phone calls from North Carolina, Arkansas and Oklahoma. The Tar Heels call to say how they much enjoyed having Neal visit over the weekend and how much the whole staff enjoyed meeting his grandmother, who lives near Chapel Hill.
The Sooners call to make sure Neal received their letter of intent, one of three letters of intent sitting on Neal's kitchen table, along with those from Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Razorbacks let Neal know they'll be sending out his letter of intent later in the week and would be thrilled if he just wants to sign now and end the process early.
Although obviously tired from a long day, Neal is courteous over the phone and tells each school how grateful he is for the attention they're showing him. While other players from all over the nation are pulling all-nighters and huddling with their families to try to figure out their college choice, Neal is in bed, asleep at 8 p.m.
The athlete rises early Wednesday morning, per his normal routine, takes about 10 minutes to figure out what he's going to wear, makes his breakfast and then heads off to school. Scottsdale is not a big city, and Neal is a big-time talent, which often leads to a lot of rumors or speculation about what the state's top ranked player is planning to do.
This day is no exception as Neal gets to school and is immediately questioned about something read on twitter early in the morning.
"Are you going to sign with Ohio State today?" Neal is asked.
The question draws a chuckle as Neal barely even has begun to compare the schools he has visited and has yet to eliminate any of the four from his list.
"No, I'm not committing anywhere, I'm not even close," Neal replies.
The rest of the day, Neal can't avoid the questions. He has six classes that day and in every one at least 10-15 fellow students ask him if he's going to sign and where. Even two teachers ask Neal where he's going and why isn't he signing like everyone else.
"I truly didn't understand it," Neal says. "This whole year, this has been my plan. I told everyone that I wouldn't be signing on signing day. I want to fit in all five of my trips, and there was no way I could do that and still sign early. Everyone knew that, yet for whatever reason, I guess they didn't believe me, because here it is, signing day, and everyone is asking why I'm not signing. It's almost comical."
Neal is definitely not impervious to how big this day is. He carries an iPad around with him to school, which serves two purposes. He can take notes on it during class but also can log on to the Internet and follow some of the day's big announcements.
He shows genuine surprise when the nation's top receiver, Dorial Green-Beckham announces for Missouri. He nods his heads when defensive tackle Eddie Goldman picks Florida State and then a bit of shock when cornerback Tracy Howard shuns Florida and picks Miami.
Neal finishes up his day, spends an hour with a tutor and then heads home to talk to his father Luke about another big rumor floating around.
"I guess everyone has me going to Arizona now," Neal said. "My dad said his phone has been blowing up with people asking him if it's true. I'm not sure if it's because a couple of my teammates signed there or because my old coach, Charlie Ragle, is now on staff there. I honestly don't listen to rumors like that.
"I let my dad handle all the calls for me. I still talk to the coaches, but my dad handles the majority of my recruitment for me, that's probably why I'm so relaxed and able to be in bed early and not stressing like so many other players around the country. I'm enjoying the process so far and excited to see how it finishes out."
It's now late Wednesday night and for the majority of the players across the county, their recruitments have come to an end. Some players show relief, others undignified joy and a few others uncertainty about whether or not they made the right decision. For Neal, it's that last group he wants to avoid and why he's in no rush to pick his college choice.
"My dad has taught me a lot of things," Neal said. "For me, I know this is a business decision and the coaches, when they talk to me, they say a lot of great things. They're great at what they do, they're sales people basically, and my dad told me it's my job to listen to what they say, understand what's fact from fiction and then try and find out where the best fit for me is.
"I've taken every visit and made a point to not try and compare any school with another yet. That's where I'm at now. I visited four great schools, and now it's time to try and cut my list down to one or two. I'm going to take this whole week and next to do that, and then after my last visit, I'll sit down with my dad and make a well informed decision that I know I won't regret."
Greg Biggins covers recruiting in the West region. He can be reached at Greg.Biggins@espn.com.
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