Keanu Neal is an inspiration for every kid growing up in a small town without the facilities to make it in any sports. The 2016 Pro Football Writers Association All-Rookie Team member plays in the National Football League (NFL) for the Atlanta Falcons.
Neal is on his way to becoming a legendary player. Already, he has made a Pro Bowl appearance and was an inch away from winning his first Super Bowl in his first professional campaign.
Keanu Neal Biography
Keanu Neal, who was named after Hollywood actor Keanu Reeves, was born to Kathy Hart Neal and Clinton Neal on the 26th of July, 1995, in Webster, Florida. He is the younger brother of former NFL star Clinton Hart who played for teams like the Philadelphia Eagles, San Diego Chargers, and St. Louis Rams.
Neal’s part to the NFL was somewhat shaped for him as he had a brother who made it to the league ahead of him. Hart is 18 years his senior, following his footsteps, Neal attended South Sumter High School in the nearby city of Bushnell, which he had to travel for eight-miles on a bus to reach from his hometown. By his sophomore high school year, Neal, who was weighing about 206 pounds, was no match for other kids as he would always crush opponents with his physical presence.
The young athlete was able to grow into a very good player as he recorded 151 tackles and 4 interceptions as a junior. Even though his stats dropped in his senior year, as he managed 70 tackles and 4 interceptions, Neal was still considered a talent and went on to get a scholarship to attend the University of Florida where he would play under coach Will Muschamp.
As a true freshman with the Florida Gators, Keanu Neal played in all 12 games that season, recording 5 tackles. As a sophomore, he started 8 of the 10 games he played in, recording 45 tackles and 3 interceptions. The player showed great progression in his junior year as he recorded 96 tackles, 1 interception, and 2 sacks from a total of 11 games. After that season, Neal decided he was forgoing his senior year and making himself eligible for the 2016 NFL draft.
After three college football years, Keanu Neal was selected with the 17th overall pick by the Atlanta Falcons. The safety position player put pen to paper to a fully guaranteed four-year contract worth $10.73 million which came with a signing bonus of $6 million. Despite sustaining an injury which needed surgery in the preseason, and led to him missing the first two regular-season games, Falcons head coach Dan Quinn named the rookie as a starting strong safety.
In his first professional game on week 3, Neal recorded 4 combined tackles and 1 pass deflection as his team won. He went on to end the regular season with 105 tackles (72 solos), 9 passes defended, 5 forced fumbles, and 1 fumble recovery from 14 starts in as many games. The fairytale rookie season did not end there as his team won the NFC Championship, defeating the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC Divisional Round and then the Green Bay Packers in the championship game. Everything looked like it was going according to plan in Super Bowl LI as the Atlanta Falcons led the New England Patriots by 19-points before blowing their lead in dramatic circumstances in the fourth quarter to lose the game.
The Atlanta Falcons did not attain the same heights in the following season even though they made the playoffs. The team had managed a 10–6 record, finishing third in the NFC South division but received a wild card spot to make the playoffs. On a personal note, Keanu Neal recorded 116 tackles (83 solos), 6 pass deflections, 1 interception, and three forced fumbles from 16 starts in as many regular season games. In the playoffs, his team was defeated in their second game in the NFC Divisional Round by eventual Super Bowl LII winners, the Philadelphia Eagles.
Height, Weight, and Body Statistics
Due to his size and strength, Keanu Neal plays the strong safety position and is on his way to becoming the best player in that position in the league. His height of 6 feet 0 inches (1.83 m) and weight of 211 pounds (96 kg) in providing him the backdrop he needs in continuing to be a vicious hitter who looks to bruise opponents with unparalleled aggression. His other measurements are:
Arm Length – 32 3/4 inches
Hand Size – 10 5/8 inches