Spotlight: Levin Neal

<B>WILMINGTON, NC --</B> When Ashley High standout Levin Neal was selected to play in the Shrine Bowl, he thought it would give him a chance to showcase his talents.

However, after missing nearly his entire senior season with an ankle injury, Neal soon found out it would be harder than he had expected.

"I felt kind of out of place at the Shrine Bowl just because I wasn't 100%," Levin Neal said. "I really couldn't show everybody what I could do so I just packed it in a couple of days after being down there. But, I met a lot of good people and my new teammate, Toney Baker."

Baker, the state's top player and arguably the nation's top running back, impressed Neal with his work ethic and ability.

"He's a hard worker, and he's got good balance," Neal said. "Toney's legit and he's going to add a lot to State. Hopefully he'll lead to more single-coverage for guys like me out there."

Levin's one of North Carolina's premier skill position players, doubling as a cornerback and wide receiver for Ashley. He ripped off a 4.25 40-yard dash at the Charlotte Shrine Bowl combine this past summer, the fastest time at the event, and he feels that NC State wants to use him at wide receiver.

"That's definitely where I'm going to play at," Neal said. "I feel more comfortable at wide receiver, but they are talking about defense too. Playing corner is something I can do."

He proved just that this summer at various camps, including a performance at the Florida State camp that caught their attention.

"I felt I measured up with the players down there just like I did with guys at any other camp," Neal said. "I was just as fast as everybody and probably faster. It was just another camp to me, and I just did what I do."

After his camp performances, Neal had received offers from NC State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Maryland, and Clemson among others. Florida State and Georgia were expressing heavy interest and had informed him that in September an offer could be on the way.

However, before he could add anymore offers, Neal suffered an ankle injury that basically ended his season. What's he remember most about recruiting when the injury occured? NC State's persistence to show just how much they still wanted him, and Wolfpack assistant Greg Williams sealed the deal.

"State stayed with me after my injury," Neal said. "They called to check on me the next day, and that meant a lot. I remembered that when it was time to choose.

"I think coach Williams was a big reason why I picked State too. He's a funny guy and a good coach. I wish I could play corner for him, but they said they needed more help at wide receiver."

Now 100% healthy, Neal plays for the Ashley basketball team and will also run track this spring. Playing on the hardwood has actually helped him recover faster from the injury.

"It's helping my ankle," Neal said. "I'm dunking again and everything now. The explosiveness is coming back, and that's making me feel good about it."

Fully qualified, Neal now has his eye on next Wednesday, when his commitment to NC State will become official.

"That's going to be a special day for me," he said. "All of the hard work will pay off for me when I sign those papers."


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