Felt like home

Defensive end Kerry Neal of Bunn high school (N.C.) committed to Notre Dame in February without setting foot on campus. Seven months and several trips later he couldn't be more content with his college decision.

As Kerry Neal (6-foot-3, 220 pounds) reflects back on his decision to commit to Notre Dame, he has never doubted Notre Dame was the place he wanted to be. His official visit for the Purdue game only made him more comfortable.

"The first time I visited I didn't know what to expect and I was nervous," Neal said of his first visit to Notre Dame in March. "I was nervous around the coaches. I'm from Bunn and I'd never seen anything like Notre Dame. When I talked to the coaches I'd didn't say much, so I didn't have long conversations with them. It was the same way around the players. I met a lot of the players and I had a host showing me around but I really didn't say much. It was much different this time. I felt like I was at home. We talked a lot. I was relaxed and worry free. I knew I wanted to be there the first time, but I was really, really comfortable this time.

Kerry's mother had always supported her son's decision to go to school 600 miles from home. She wanted her son to get the best education he could and she felt Notre Dame was that school.

"My mom loved it," Kerry explained. "She liked the academics at Notre Dame. She always thought that I could get the best education there, so she wasn't worried. The people and fans impressed her the most.

"We were walking toward the stadium after the team went to mass and I had my Bunn sweatshirt on and people knew who I was, but they were actually welcoming my mom. They were telling her that they were so happy to have your son. It felt like home.

Every player has a host on an official visit and Neal is no different.

"I had Leonard Gordon the first night and then Saturday night I had Raeshon McNeil," Neal said of the players that hosted him. "It was really the first time I had a chance to talk to Raeshon. He's a good guy and we have a lot in common… a whole lot in common. Stuff he does, I do. The reason he picked Notre Dame and I picked Notre Dame are the same. We even talked about how we were going to move my stuff in. We talked about which dorm you wanted to get in. He got a real small dorm room, so we talked about that.

Neal has been playing close attention to his Irish this season. He's also trying to learn a few tips from existing players.

"I try to watch the position that I'm going to play," Neal said. "I watched Victor. He's a great player. If you watch the stuff that he does you can learn a lot. I watch the positions that I'm going to be playing, the defensive ends and the outside linebackers and try to learn what to do. You can learn from watching Victor, (Chris) Frome and (Ronald) Talley.

"I think [the team is] doing pretty good. A couple of the cornerbacks are still young and they're going through some growing pains, but they're good. They may be young now, but they might be the best cornerbacks in the nation in a while.

"Me and coach Minter and coach Weis had a meeting," Neal said. "They told me who was leaving and which positions would be open. They said those jobs would be open and the best player would win the position. I want to play as a freshman so I'm going to work to win one of those jobs. It comes down to who wants it the most."

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