From Stanford to USC to bowling with Washington head coach Chris Petersen to a comprehensive look inside the California football program, all the way to Ann Arbor, Mich., spring break has been anything but a break for three-star center Brett Neilon.
With a 4.07 grade point average at Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita Catholic, Neilon is used to doing his homework, and that's exactly what he did when he came to visit Berkeley on Wednesday. Neilon had called his visit to Seattle a "10 out of 10," and said that his trip to visit the Bears equalled that grade.
"I would also give it a 10," Neilon said.
Neilon and his parents flew down from Washington to San Francisco, and spent all of Wednesday in Berkeley, after having already taken in a game during the 2015 season -- the Bears' comeback win against Arizona State. The only other school he's tripped out to for a game and spring ball is hometown USC, which just offered.
As for the Trojans, they have at least one Neilon in their corner -- Brett's older brother, and his father, both Trojans.
"He was pretty excited," Neilon said of his older brother. "We're going to make it down there for the spring game, since it's only an hour away. We haven't really gotten the chance to talk with coach [Clay] Helton on his philosophies, in terms of player development, personality-wise, and all of that."
That's what he'll be doing next time he heads to USC, but his visit to Berkeley was as comprehensive as he's had.
"We toured the campus in-depth, and spent time with the O-line group, and coach [Brandon] Jones and all the coaches, and we got to see the business school," Neilon said. "It was a really in-depth visit, and I got to see what they're all about."
Specifically, his time with Jones was instructive, after having already seen Jones's unit in action last season.
"Coach Jones is hard on them, and he pushes them, works them hard, and they were getting after it," said Neilon, the No. 3 center in the nation and the top center in the West region. "He's definitely also trying to change the culture of that room, in terms of being tougher and more physical, I guess. That was good to see."
Cal rolled out the blue carpet for Neilon, not only having him observe practice and learn about the Haas School of Business, but also setting him up with a talk from former Bears defensive back Ron Coccimiglio, who's in his third year as the director of career development for Cal student-athletes.
"We sat in with Coach Coc', and that was a highlight of the trip," Neilon said. "That was something that was pretty unique, and we've never had that visiting a school, My family and I thought that was pretty special to have, and a great resource."
Bears head coach Sonny Dykes and the program's focus on academics also made a big impression on Neilon, who grew up in Japan, the son of an ethnic Japanese mother (born in Hawaii), who is taking Chinese Honors and Steel Drums Honors.
"Coach Dykes is changing the culture around, and he's putting a big emphasis on academics, and recruiting the right kids," said Neilon. "The Haas School of Business was also pretty interesting, just getting to learn about that and how Haas will set you up for life."
Talking to coaches and advisors is one thing, but talking to a friend is another. Neilon got to do just that on his visit, with Honey Mustard himself, David Davis. While Davis came in as a JuCo defensive lineman, and not a high school offensive lineman, like Neilon, the latter still valued his input.
"Our families are pretty close, and I'm pretty close with his brother Wyatt [Davis], and he just gave me the low-down," Neilon said. "He really likes Cal, and gave me just an honest opinion. We also talk about other stuff, other than football. It was good to see him, and he really likes it. He's actually trying to get a sixth year to play."
The Davis clan and Neilon are familiar with one another since Neilon went to camps with Wyatt, and playing against Wyatt in the Trinity League. In fact, Neilon and Wyatt Davis played basketball against one another.
While Neilon doesn't claim to be a top-level hoopster -- "I'm mostly kind of a practice guy, banging around with the big guys," he laughed -- playing basketball does help his footwork, without depriving him of needed weight. He said he still maintains his 280-285-pound, 6-foot-3 build during basketball season. He doesn't know, though, if he'll continue to play next winter, after he's signed his National Letter of Intent.
"Mostly, my job is to play post defense on guys, and get physical with the guys on the team," Neilon said. "I'm debating [whether to continue playing], but we'll see."
Up next is the visit to Michigan, on Friday and Saturday.
"I'll get to see it pretty extensively," said Neilon, who goes back to school on Monday.null