April 6, 2012

Neal does whatever it takes

Lewis Neal's dark cold eyes and focused look of determination are the last things his opponent wants to see, and he proved that Sunday, April 1 at the Rival/VTO Sports NC Elite 100 Combine in Charlotte as the competition was not even close in the one-on-one matchups.

"There's always places where you can improve, but today I dominated the offensive linemen using my strength, quickness and speed," Neal said. "I got a lot more to prove before I reach the next level."

Rivals.com's Mike Farrell ranked Neal second on his list of the top big men at the one-day event.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pound defensive end at Wilson (NC) Hunt has the killer instinct and the high motor to be successful at the collegiate level.

"Never slack, because there could be someone up in California doing the same thing I'm doing and I want to be better than him, so I've got to keep working," Neal said. "When I go home I do stuff at night. I go run three miles before I go to bed."

Neal's burning desire to improve and win every rep and play fits the mold college coaches are looking for.

When talking about what he searches for on the recruiting trail Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer once said, "I don't go out and recruit a certain player. I recruit the best player, and competitive nature, his desire to win, is without question the most important thing. I used to be into, 'Is he a three quarter [throwing motion]? Does he have four fingers on the laces or five?' I don't care anymore."

"Will he choke you to win a checker game? If he does that, I'll take him."

In the movie 300 the king of Sparta said, "Spartans never give up. Spartans never surrender."

As temperatures rose at the combine in Charlotte many of the prospects huffed and puffed and took plays off, but Neal kept going hard. His effort and will to win clearly separated him from nearly all of the participants.

Neal's toughness and talent is serving him well. The rising senior has 10 scholarship offers.

He said NC State, North Carolina, Ohio State, South Carolina and Tennessee stand out the most. Pittsburgh is the newest school to show interest in Neal, while Alabama and Oregon and others are also on his radar.

The last school Neal visited, Wake Forest, is still high on his list. He made the trip to Winston-Salem Saturday, Feb. 25 for Wake Forest's Junior Day.

Jonathan Himebauch is recruiting him for the Demon Deacons. Neal added he also stays in contact with Wake Forest graduate assistant Chris Barclay.

"He's [Himebauch] a real cool dude," Neal said. "He talks to my mom a lot. "They want me to come back and see practice. I want to go back. The coach wants me to go back, so I'll go back."

Neal missed three games at the beginning of his junior year due to a sprained ankle, but returned to record 88 tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles to help lead Hunt to the fourth round of the state playoffs and a 13-1 finish. He was equally impressive as a sophomore when he made 96 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 6.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and a 48-yard touchdown reception offensively.

Rivals.com rates Neal as a three-star recruit and the nation's No. 16 defensive end.

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