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February 21, 2012
Fittingly, Neal ended it in bizarre fashion.
According to reports, Neal and his father, Luke, clashed heads Tuesday morning as to which school would be the best fit and so Neal decided not to attend a news conference at his elementary school that was attended by hundreds of young students.
It appeared that Neal would prolong his recruitment even further - he had already waited 20 days beyond National Signing Day - but then Tuesday afternoon the Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral standout announced he selected the Irish.
The family, however, told IrishIllustrated.com that a family emergency at about 2 a.m. threw the ceremonial plans into chaos. Davonte said he spoke with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly on Monday night and planned to inform the other head coaches this morning before the ceremony at his elementary school. Then the family got an emergency call in the middle of the night about an incident on Luke's side of the family.
"We had a lot of unfortunate things happen," Luke told IrishIllustrated.com. "At about 2 a.m. we had deeper family issues that we're trying to keep private right now. I had to be the bad guy and say 'You know what, we've got to take the emotions out of this somehow and how do we do it?' I think not everyone understanding, somebody in the family had to stand up, be the bad guy and say this is how it has to be for now."
Luke said he kept in contact with the Kyrene de la Esperanza principal during the morning, even before the hundreds of students were called to the school cafeteria for a ceremony that never occurred.
It was certainly a strange string of events.
On Tuesday morning, it was an extraordinary and possibly unprecedented scene that unfolded at Neal's elementary school, as cameras rolled and hundreds of young students sat patiently on the floor for nearly an hour waiting for Neal to arrive.
It never happened.
Instead, the school's principal, Dr. Cheryl Greene, dismissed the students and it became clear that no announcement would be made there.
Supposedly, Neal's National Letter of Intent was inside an unopened FedEx envelope at the school. The four-star receiver was supposed to open the package revealing his decision and then mail it off to either Tucson or South Bend. Arkansas and North Carolina were also on his list of favorites.
Like many things with Neal throughout his recruitment, his signing ceremony was an over-the-top production from the start. Students played xylophones to open the morning and then a lengthy highlight video was shown as a pre-recorded Neal offered commentary.
It was around that time - probably 30 minutes into the festivities - that things seemed off, delayed and taking a turn toward dreadful.
Arizona Republic's Richard Obert reported on Twitter that Neal might not even show up at the news conference because he and his father could not reach a final agreement.
According to Obert, Luke Neal said Arizona would not be the college but Davonte Neal wanted to pick the Wildcats.
"This is a new one for me," Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell said. "I've seen players call press conferences and then not announce anything but I've never experienced a player and his family call a press conference in front of elementary school kids and not show up. This is one of the reasons certain schools have backed off recruiting Neal and dealing with his family, bizarre things like this. It's a shame because he has a ton of talent, but it seems he's getting some poor guidance."
Immediate reaction was not kind.
"This is the classic example of self-absorption," Fox Sports Arizona reporter Craig Morgan said on the Fox Sports Webcast. "? You don't want to be like Davonte Neal."
For all of his peculiar behavior off the field and an overt and sometimes over-the-top influence from his father, Neal is a tremendous player. He had an outstanding senior season at Chaparral, which won all of its games except the season opener against Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman.
The four-star finished with 62 receptions for 1,113 yards and 14 touchdowns, and he also rushed for 1,317 yards and 16 scores. Neal was also outstanding on defense and averaged nearly 40 yards per kick return.
Rivals.com rates him as the No. 17 wide receiver and No. 107 prospect in the 2012 class. The two prospects from the state of Arizona rated higher are five-star offensive tackle Andrus Peat, who signed with Stanford, and Arizona State signee D.J. Foster, who rushed for 3,058 yards and 54 touchdowns last season.
Neal was the final player in the class of 2012 Rivals250 to sign, saving the most bizarre for the very end.
Video Courtesy of FOXSportsArizona.com