Familiar face returns to Kansas football

Neal Barlow first committed to play football for the University of Kansas on Aug. 13, 2008. Three years and two schools later, and the 6-foot-7, 210-pound wideout is headed back to Lawrence - bringing with him some serious big-play potential.

After committing to Kansas prior to his senior season at Little Rock (AR) Pulaski Academy, he flipped his commitment to the home-state Razorbacks a month later. As a freshman in 2009, a broken foot required two surgeries and force Barlow to take a redshirt.

Last year, he made his way to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, where he joined the men's basketball team. Barlow comes from a basketball family, as his father, Jeb, played basketball at the University of North Carolina - a part of the program's 1982 national championship team and the roommate of Michael Jordan.

While his experience was great, Barlow explained, he missed football with a passion. Eventually, that feeling became too intense to ignore.

"I just missed playing," he said. "All the guys and the camaraderie, and being a part of a big team."

To get the ball rolling, he placed a call to his high school coach, Kevin Kelly, who began to put out feelers. With wide receivers coach David Beaty back in Lawrence, Kan., he figured the Jayhawks might be interested - and he was right.

Beaty was Barlow's lead recruiter under the previous coaching regime, and that previous relationship appealed to the big wide receiver immediately.

"Coach Beaty is a great guy," he said. "He's a really good family man. Everything I've heard about him is that he's got great loyalty to his players, all his players seem to respect him and do well for him."

A visit to the Lawrence, Kan. campus was soon scheduled, and Barlow and his father arrived Thursday to check things out again for themselves. He'd visited Kansas before, but a great deal had changed since then.

For example, the Anderson Family Football Complex - which had been under construction when Barlow last took a tour - is now complete.

"They were phenomenal," he said, of the upgrades. "Those facilities are probably second to none."

Outside of Beaty, the coaching staff has undergone a highly-publicized overhaul as well. Barlow had a favorable impression of Head Coach Turner Gill prior to meeting him in person - thanks to opinions offered up by previous coaches and family friends with knowledge of the second-year Kansas head man.

Those impressions were confirmed upon getting the chance to spend some time with Gill, and this weekend Barlow decided to make Kansas his home for the next three years.

Though he'll have to sit out a year due to transfer guidelines, he expects to have three years of eligibility remaining - as compliance departments at Arkansas and UA-LR both expressed confidence to him that a sixth year of eligibility would be attainable due to medical hardship.

The Kansas camp roster is currently full, so Barlow will join the team when classes start; initially as a walk-on, though if a roster spot opens up he has been told he'll fill that gap.

As a senior at Pulaski Academy in 2008, Barlow hauled in 96 passes for 1,512 yards and 23 touchdowns. He was rated a three-star prospect, the No. 78 wide receiver in the country, and praised by Scout.com recruiting analysts for his size, soft hands and playmaking potential - particularly in the red zone.

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