Commentary

Never a dull moment

Recruitment of the three-star DE, once an Ohio State commit, full of twists and turns

Originally Published: May 7, 2012
By Dave Hooker | ESPN RecruitingNation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Lewis Neal's recruitment has already had more twists and turns than a shuttle run, so there's no telling what the future holds. One things for sure is it should be entertaining.

Going back, the defensive end from Wilson (N.C.) Hunt was once an Ohio State commitment. That didn't last long.

"I was so happy. It was over," Neal's grandmother, Tinia Neal, said while watching Lewis participated in the Nike Football Training Camp in Charlotte on Sunday. "Then when we got home, he said 'That's not where I want to be.' I said 'You don't have to go there. You didn't sign the paper. Call them back and tell them.'"

Lewis informed the media he was re-opening his recruitment a week later. An offer from LSU was further reason to reevaluate his options. Lewis' uncle, Wesley Neal, said he still remembers when his nephew received the scholarship offer from LSU, which was delivered in by defensive coordinator John Chavis.

"He's got LSU in the back of his mind now," Wesley said.

As well as Alabama. Defensive line coach Chris Rumph is scheduled to be at Lewis' high school later this month. A scholarship offer could be forthcoming.

"They're close," Lewis said.

Neal said he'd like to make a decision in July or August but doesn't have a top grouping. That could make the time frame challenging. He'll likely end up sorting through more offers and visits to take, starting with LSU in late June.

"I want to see how life is there," he said. "It's a different location and it's really far away so I want to learn how they do things down south."

Neal's recruitment has seen steady growth. Playing at a school that doesn't have a rich tradition of producing top prospects, recruiters have worked to find Neal. He doesn't have a mountain of offers, but three three-star prospect has big-name schools like Clemson, LSU, Ohio State, South Carolina and Tennessee on his list.

"He knows he's going to make history in his high school," Wesley Neal said. "They've never had a player in the SEC. To get recruited like him, they've never had anybody like that."

That has made Lewis a bit of a self promoter. While some prospects treat the attention with disdain, Neal will often reach out to the media with updates on his recruitment. Credit his proactive approach. It's proven effective and garnered him more scholarship offers.

However, seeking out the media still seems strange to his grandmother, who still sees her grandson as that shy kid who never wanted to speak up in school or church. She was a bit taken aback when he told her that he wanted to be in the NFL and on television.

"I said 'Do you realize you're going to be in front of all these people and somebody is always wanting to talk to you?'" Tinia Neal said. "'And it's going to be a stranger, like a paparazzi or something.' He said 'So?'"

Tinia Neal knows exactly when Lewis discarded his bashful ways.

"I think it had a lot to do with his teeth," she said. "He's had them corrected. Once he got to the dentist and his teeth corrected, he became chatter mouth. He had braces for a couple of years. It straightened them and it just changed him. He was very shy about talking. I think he thought everybody was just looking at his teeth."

Now everybody is looking at Neal on the football field. His recruitment figures to continue to grow despite how annoying it can become.

"It's too stressful," Tinia Neal said. "It is very stressful. Sometimes I just want to take his phone."

Yet she hasn't. Tinia Neal said her grandson has handled the attention well even if he probably doesn't have time to read all of the letters from college coaches.

"The mail just multiplied," Tinia Neal said. "I was reading it and saving it and all of the sudden I didn't have anywhere to put it. I've got a box full and he's got it laying all over the place. Each time he goes to a combine, it spreads out all over the United States. It's going up north. It's going out west. It's going this way and that way."

Tinia Neal said the players at Ohio State were the ones who convinced her grandson to commit so suddenly. Don't expect that to happen again. She said Lewis is better equipped to handle the sales pitches he'll hear from coaches and players.

"He said 'I'm not going to commit until I come home, go to bed, go to sleep and think about it,'" Tinia Neal said. "You can't go to all these colleges. You have to choose one. It's going to be hard."

Tinia Neal said she doesn't think her grandson wants to be too far from home in college. Another important factor is for a school to offer a strong kinesiology program. Well, there's a lot of schools that fit those criteria.

Get ready for some more twists and turns.

Dave Hooker

Reporter, RecruitingNation