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Football Recruiting: Neal becomes first 2007 commitment

Ken Fowler | Monday, February 27, 2006

Notre Dame got its first verbal commitment of the class of 2011 Feb. 23 when 6-foot-2, 225-pound defensive end Kerry Neal told Irish coach Charlie Weis he would accept a scholarship offer.

“I always wanted to go to Notre Dame,” Neal said in a telephone interview with The Observer Sunday. “I plan on coming up [to visit] during spring practice.”

Neal, a junior at Bunn High School in Bunn, N.C., said he has never visited Notre Dame or any other schools in the Midwest, but accepted Weis’ offer after returning a call Weis left on his high school coach’s voicemail early Thursday morning. He said he was speechless when Weis made the offer.

Neal said Weis was confident he could succeed at Notre Dame.

“He was like, ‘I’ve been around athletes, and I know one when I see one. And you’re one,'” Neal said.

Along with his admiration for the school, Neal said his family supports his choice of Notre Dame.

“My family, they’re behind me 100 percent,” he said.

Mike Frank of IrishEyes.com said Neal has not been rated by most recruiting services yet but will bring a definite edge to the Irish defensive line.

“He’s a tremendous prospect,” Frank said. “Notre Dame has a lot of defensive ends, but I don’t know if they have that true pass rushing specialist. I think that’s what they’re looking for when they go after a guy like Kerry Neal.”

The only other school that offered Neal a scholarship was Wake Forest. Neal said Duke and East Carolina were the only other schools to show substantial interest in him.

Frank said the limited number of offers does not mean Neal is a mediocre recruit.

“He didn’t have a lot of big-name offers, but he just started sending out a lot of film,” Frank said.

“There are a lot of big-name players that are out there that Coach Weis hasn’t offered yet, and he’s being picky with who he’s offering. And yet he watches [Neal’s] film and feels compelled to call him first thing in the morning. That gives a large indication of how much potential he has.”

Frank said he expects Neal to stay firm in his commitment and call other recruits to influence them to come to Notre Dame.

“I don’t think he’s the type of kid who will just commit and then start looking around again,” Frank said. “I think he will be the kind of guy who will stick with his commitment.”