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Neal wrestling with a few things

Posted by Albert Breer  May 6, 2010 03:21 PM

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Again, Neal says his motivation is to give more kids the opportunity he had to become a star heavyweight at the school.

"I gotta do everything I can to make sure that opportunity’s still available to them," he said. "We have raised a ton of money, the whole community of Bakersfield is pretty fired up about it."

Just 11 days ago, Neal got another advocate as a teammate -- Illinois heavyweight John Wise.

Wise will try to make the same transition that Neal did, going from college wrestling to pro football. The truth is, Neal's the outlier, and the experiments usually don't work. But the Patriot veteran is optimistic with this one.

"I’ve talked to John on the phone. He’s a great kid and if he’s a wrestler, he’s a hard worker," Neal said. "You love having that around, that gets contagious and people work harder and harder. That’s a great thing.

"I said, ‘Hey, just try to come out here and learn as much you can and do what they tell you.’ Because, for me, everybody knew a lot more about football than I did when I got here. I just kept my mouth shut, did exactly what they told me to do, and worked hard. That hard work, even if you have bad technique, they can see you work hard."

Neal said one advantage he had as a wrestler was being able to fight his way out of awkward angles and bad spots.

But in every other way, it was an uphill climb.

"The toughest thing is the language," Neal said. "You’re making all these different calls – now I know what the calls me, but back then? It’s, ‘OK, he said this, does that mean that?’ You think for that split-second, and the play’s over and you didn’t do what you were supposed to do. Learning the language, and then learning your assignment, and then learning what all the other people around are doing, that’s huge too.

"That took me probably 2-3 years to figure all that stuff out."

Anyway, so Neal's working on a few different things now. Playing. Mentoring. And trying to save his college wrestling program.

If you want to help out with that last one -- something I'd encourage anyone who's ever been involved in and benefited from athletics to do -- then go right here to savebakersfieldwrestling.com.
News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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