"It's real big [to be nominated]," said Neal. "It shows that what my grandmother and my mother have taught me – like helping others – will take you a long way. It also shows leadership."
An honor student, Neal maintains a 3.1 grade point average in the classroom.
On the football field, Neal is the reigning conference defensive player-of-the-year. During his junior season, he collected 111 tackles, 14.5 sacks, and two interceptions from his defensive end position.
Outside of all that, Neal voluntarily reads to elementary school students and daycare children. He's also very active with special education students at Bunn High School and participates in activities within his church.
Toping off these feats is Neal's humility.
"When I get the opportunity to visit with Kerry concerning a past contest or an upcoming game, all he wants to talk about is how our team has worked hard and will do their best," said Bunn High School principal George Kelley. "He wants to tell me how hard and well-prepared the opposing team will be or how lucky Bunn High School was to win a previous victory. If I want to discuss his performance, the best I'll receive is, ‘I was lucky.'"
Instilling the traits to excel on and off the football field is Neal's mother and grandmother.
"They're like the hardest working people I know," said Neal. "My grandmother is like 76 [years old], and there's not a day that she doesn't get up and do something – like clean up the house. She's retired from work, but she's always doing something. And she taught me the right things to do, wrong things to do.
"My mother, she's out there working two jobs so that she can support me and my brother. She works from like 6 to 10:30 at night.
"If it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be no me. That's my backbone right there."
The "Carolina Panthers Community Captains" program will honor outstanding student-athletes that have exhibited outstanding leadership on the football field, in the classroom and in their communities. The first Community Captain will be announced on September 10th.