College football fans might remember wide receiver Davonte’ Neal as the irresponsible kid who was a no-show at the ceremony to announce his plans to attend Notre Dame. His time with the Irish was short-lived — the school confirmed that the sophomore plans to transfer — but Neal’s decision to leave Notre Dame shows much more maturity than his mishandled decision announcement.
If Neal has grown up over the last year, chalk it up to becoming a family man. According to Neal’s father, Luke, who first announced the receiver’s decision to BlueandGold.com, Davonte’ Neal and his longtime girlfriend welcomed a baby girl at the beginning of February, and apparently their little bundle of joy tugged so hard on her daddy’s heartstrings that he’s leaving South Bend to be nearer to her.
The elder Neal told the website:
“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.”
Good for him.
Being a Division I college football player is a lot of work, as is caring for a newborn. The young couple will benefit from having their families close by for support, support they wouldn’t have if Neal’s girlfriend and daughter moved closer to him.
Yes, it’s a privilege and an honor to be on scholarship at one of the most storied football programs in the nation, but a player as talented as Neal who’s willing to put in the work could be successful at a lot of schools — possibly even more successful because he won’t be worrying about, and missing, his family.
Someday, they might have the opportunity to move to help him further his career, potentially even in the NFL, but with a newborn daughter, this sounds like the best possible decision Neal could have made for his family.