SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers boosted their secondary this offseason by signing safety Keanu Neal.
Neal grew up in the small town of Webster with a population of roughly 1,000 people.
“They do not have a red light in Webster,” South Sumter head coach Ty Lawrence said. “They don’t even have one that blinks.”
Blink, and you might miss it.
“Really small town,” Neal said. “We got a flea market; that’s about it.”
Neal played high school football at South Sumter in nearby Bushnell. Coming home is an exciting opportunity for Neal and Lawrence.
This Sunday, Neal will be playing his first home game close to home when the Bucs host the Green Bay Packers.
“We love Keanu being there. It’s close to home,” Lawrence said, who was Neal’s defensive coordinator at South Sumter. “We get to see him a little bit more now than we used to.”
“It’s going to be awesome,” Neal told ABC Action News sports anchor Kyle Burger. “I got a lot of family coming. It’s going to be cool being so close to home, so close to where I grew up.”
Lawrence has known Neal since he was just little.
“You hope that people get to see how high-character he is; he never got written up, he had a high GPA, the teachers liked him, came to school every day, did everything he was supposed to do, and now he is reaping the rewards,” Lawrence added.
The NFL star is still very much involved in the community.
“His first year getting drafted, he signed a deal with Nike,” Lawrence said. “One of the things was that Nike had to provide us with home and away jerseys and pants. He was able to get that done. He camps every year for the kids.”
Neal and his brother, Clinton Hart, have both donated their time and money to South Sumter — even helping fund their weight room.
“It means everything,” Neal said. “Anytime I get the chance to help them, that’s what I am doing.”
A hometown here who never forgets where he came from.
“(Webster) is mostly known for their flea market and cattle market,” Lawrence said.
And now known for Keanu Neal.