Neal ready to showcase self in Shrine Bowl
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For several years now, the Shrine Bowl has given Nebraska walk-ons such as Sam Foltz, Brandon Reilly and Ryker Fyfe to showcase their skills and provide a glimpse into the impact they could make in Lincoln.
But for the most part, scholarship players have avoided the event. Some said they needed rest. Others simply choose not to participate. No Nebraska scholarship player has competed since Daniel Davie and David Sutton did in 2011.
Omaha Central defensive end Daishon Neal had no intentions of extending that streak. His coach told him about the impact the Shrine Bowl can have before the start of last season and Neal was all in.
"It's for the kids. It's for the Shriners' Hospital and it's for a good cause," Neal said. "I'm going to have a good time, but it's about giving back and raising money to help kids that are in need. Once my dad and my coaches explained to me what was going on, I was more than willing to join this team and help the cause and help the kids out."
Offensive lineman Michael Decker will join Neal , though he's suiting up for the North squad. Wiber-Clatonia coach Lynn Jurgens, who's coaching the South team this week, said the coaches are thankful to Mike Riley for letting future scholarship athletes play in the game.
"Obviously any fan that's going to the game wants to see the future Huskers, so as a team it's great for our guys to have a player like that," Jurgens said of Neal. "He's very talented and he really disrupts things on the other side of the ball."
Some of the previous players who've passed on the Shrine Bowl say they don't want to burn themselves out before reporting to Lincoln. Neal and Decker head to Nebraska Sunday, one day after the Shrine Game, but Neal believes this opportunity is helping him stay in shape, not sap his energy.
"I'm using this to get my body back in practice, back in shape," Neal said. "I'm going to work out my techniques so once I get down to Lincoln I'll be ready to go. I'm not going to be sluggish or out of shape or winded. I've been running track all summer long so I'm already conditioned and ready to go."
A few months ago it was unclear if Neal would end up at Nebraska. The defensive end committed to Bo Pelini, and once the coach was fired his father instructed him to keep his options open. Schools like Oklahoma and Oregon tried to swoop in, but after meeting the coaches during an in-home visit, Neal closed his recruitment in late January.
"Once coach Riley came to my house with (defensive line) coach (Hank) Hughes and coach (Mark) Banker, that bond was there," Neal said. "As soon as he walked in the house, my dad said, 'He's going to Nebraska. You don't have anything to worry about.' I've always been comfortable. I'm just ready to get down there with my brotherhood."