Wednesday may have been a national holiday, but it was business as usual for LSU football.
The Tigers continued to stockpile commitments at a rapid pace when Wilson, N.C., defensive end Lewis Neal announced before a hometown baseball crowd that he planned to sign with LSU.
Neal said he chose to announce his commitment between innings of the Wilson Tobs-Edenton Steamers game Wednesday night because he wanted to make his community part of the moment. The Tobs are a member of the Coastal Plains League, a collegiate summer league covering North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
“This town is like a family,” Neal said. “I told them how appreciative I was. I said thank you to the people who motivated me on and off the field.”
Neal became LSU’s 19th commitment in the 2013 recruiting class, following commitments by Michael Patterson from Winnfield and Frank Herron from Memphis, Tenn., at defensive end.
Neal, 6-foot-1, 235 pounds, had earlier committed to Ohio State. He attracted a long list of suitors after re-opening his recruitment, but Hunt High coach Randy Raper said LSU’s level of year-in, year-out consistency set the Tigers apart.
“Plus, you’ve got celebrities down there with the Swamp People, so why wouldn’t anybody want to go down there?” Raper said with a laugh. “I told him he’s gonna have to get used to eating crawdads and alligator meat and everything else.”
In his first two years as a starter at Hunt, Neal helped the Warriors reach the state semifinals.
Neal had 88 tackles, eight sacks and three forced fumbles as a junior. As a sophomore, he had 96 tackles, 21/2 sacks, 61/2 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
Although his frame fits the mold of the smaller, faster defensive ends that often thrive in LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis’ system, Neal pointed out he can bench press nearly 400 pounds. He said he is as strong as he is quick.
“I might not be as tall, but I’m not small,” he said. “I’ll be bigger than all of them. When I get on the field, I’m going to dominate at that position.”
Raper called Neal a “machine” in the weight room and on the practice field — a player who always strives for perfection.
He said he had given his players the Fourth of July off and was at the beach with his wife Wednesday when his phone rang. It was Neal wanting to know if he could send someone to unlock the weight room.
“That’s the type kid LSU is getting with him,” Raper said. “He will never surrender. He will always work to improve.”
Neal is listed by Rivals.com as the nation’s No. 26 weakside defensive end and by ESPN as the nation’s No. 38 defensive end overall. He made an unofficial visit to LSU in June, shortly after receiving a scholarship offer from the Tigers.