Just a little over a year after a National Letter of Intent signing debacle, Davonte’ Neal has decided to take his leave of the Notre Dame football program.
While the school has yet to announce it, Neal’s father Luke Neal confirmed to the 247Sports.com website BlueandGold.com that his son is transferring from the Irish. Neal has already informed head coach Brian Kelly of his decision, and the Arizona native has a one-way ticket for a Thursday flight out of South Bend.
Luke Neal stated that the decision to move back closer to his Arizona hometown is one that has been a few months in the making and was based on one factor completely unrelated to his son’s experience at the South Bend school — fatherhood.
“The reason for Davonte’s transfer is that he’s the father of a six-week old baby girl (Baylee) with his girlfriend (Marie Burton) that he has dated since seventh grade,” said Luke Neal, Davonte’s father, of his granddaughter that was born on Feb. 2. “The plan was to move his girlfriend and his baby to South Bend, but Davonte’ just felt the need to be closer to his family and his girlfriend’s family at this time.
“It’s a situation that I’ve been talking to Davonte’ about the past four months through his girlfriend’s pregnancy, and he’s finally realized he wants to be involved in his daughter’s life closer than from a distance at Notre Dame.”
The elder Neal added that a transfer to a California school “would most likely be a better fit for Davonte’ because of my relationships there and being from there.” The wide receiver had four finalists leading up to his signing nearly two weeks after National Signing Day began last year; along with Notre Dame, Arizona, Arkansas and North Carolina were in the player’s final four. Based on the father’s words, however, none of those programs will be under consideration during this second recruiting go around.
Neal was a four-star member of the Irish’s 2012 class, rated as the No. 17 receiver in the country. He played sparingly on offense as a true freshman, catching one pass for minus-five yards. Neal’s biggest role came on special teams as he returned 21 punts for 46 yards.
Neal becomes the second high-profile member of last year’s Irish recruiting class to transfer this month. The No. 1 quarterback in the country in 2012, Gunner Kiel flipped his LSU verbal commitment to a Notre Dame signing shortly before signing day. A week ago Wednesday, the Irish announced, after much speculation, that Kiel had asked for and been granted a release from his scholarship.