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Neal always stayed grounded
He speaks at PC Hall of Fame event
RIVER ISLAND — There was no chance of Lorenzo Neal not staying grounded. His father made sure of that.
Even though Neal was a star running back for Lemoore High School who may have run for 150 to 250 yards the night before on a Friday night, his father woke him just a few hours later at 4 a.m. the following Saturday.
“‘Rise and shine,’” said Neal about what his father told him. “The cows and pigs, they don’t care how far you ran.’”
Neal, as the keynote speaker during Saturday’s Porterville College Athletic Hall of Fame Dinner, shared that growing up on a farm and having to wake up at 4 o’clock in the morning every day to feed the animals kept him grounded. “It taught me how to have accountability,” he said. “I’m just a simple guy.”
But, Neal also shared how the experience motivated him to strive for something better in his life. “I’m not going to feed cows and pigs the rest of my life,” said Neal about what he thought growing up. Neal, though, also said about his upbringing, “Those are the kinds of things that helped define me.”
Neal went to become a standout football player at Fresno State before a lengthy NFL career that began in 1993, in which he established himself as a top fullback in the league for 16 years. He talked about his setbacks, which is nothing more than “a set up for a comeback.”
Neal played for the 1999 Tennessee Titans, and was part of one of the most famous plays in NFL history, the “Music City Miracle.” With the Titans trailing the Buffalo Bills 16-15 in the final seconds in the playoffs, Neal received the ensuing kickoff and handed the ball to Frank Wycheck, who threw the ball to Kevin Dyson, who ran for the game-winning touchdown to give the Titans a 22-16 win.
It’s still debated to this day if Wycheck’s throw to Dyson was a forward pass. The play propelled the Titans to a Super Bowl run, where they faced one of those setbacks Neal talked about, losing to the St. Louis Rams 23-16, coming within less than a yard of scoring the tying touchdown as time expired.
Neal also played for the Baltimore Ravens in 2008 when they reached the AFC Championship Game, only to lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Neal talked about the final setback of his career when he signed with the Oakland Raiders in 2009.
Neal was asked to talk to the struggling team about what it takes to be a winner. But then, “One week later, I get my pink slip. They cut me. I got my setback,” Neal said. Neal ended up retiring. But, Neal’s career also included blocking for one of the NFL’s greatest running backs, LaDainian Tomlinson, during his time with the San Diego Chargers.
And, Neal continues to talk to youth about overcoming setbacks, no matter what their situation is. Neal said he tells youth about the adversity they face, “that might be your position, but it’s not your condition.”
He concluded by saying, “there’s greatness in each and every one of us. Never stop dreaming. Never stop being willing to serve. That’s what leadership’s all about.”