The protracted and peculiar recruitment of Scottsdale (Ariz.) Chaparral athlete Davonte Neal finally came to an end on Tuesday, with the four-star prospect, perhaps begrudgingly, signing with Notre Dame. Neal selected the Irish over in-state Arizona after failing to attend his scheduled morning press conference, bringing a bizarre conclusion to the 2012 recruiting cycle.
According to reports, Neal and his father, Luke -- who was heavily involved throughout the recruiting process -- were at odds on the final choice. (Neal reportedly preferred to play for Arizona; his father wanted him to sign with Notre Dame.) It threatened to prolong a recruitment that already extended nearly three weeks past National Signing Day.
On Tuesday morning, an extraordinary and possibly unprecedented scene unfolded at Kyrene de la Esperanza, Neal's elementary school. Numerous media outlets and hundreds of students waited for an hour for Neal to arrive to his own ceremony.
It never happened.
Instead, principal Dr. Cheryl Greene dismissed the students, making it clear that no announcement was forthcoming. Neal's four finalists -- Arizona, Notre Dame, Arkansas and North Carolina -- were forced to wait. His National Letter of Intent, which he planned to sign at the conference, remained unopened in a FedEx envelope at the school.
As with many things with Neal's drawn-out recruitment process, his signing ceremony was a markedly over-the-top production. Students played xylophones to open the conference, followed by a lengthy highlight video with a pre-recorded Neal offering commentary.
It was around that time -- 30 minutes into the festivities -- that something seemed off. Arizona Republic's Richard Obert reported on Twitter that Neal might not show up because he and his father could not reach an agreement. According to Obert, as hundreds waited at the school, a fierce family power struggle occurred behind the scenes.
Immediate reaction to the developments was not kind.
"This is the classic example of self-absorption," Fox Sports Arizona reporter Craig Morgan said via webcast. "You don't want to be like Davonte Neal."
The family, however, told IrishIllustrated.com later that a family emergency occurred that threw the ceremonial plans into chaos. Davonte said he spoke with Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly on Monday night and planned to inform the other head coaches before his announcement at Kyrene de la Esperanza.
"We had a lot of unfortunate things happen," Luke said. "At about 2 a.m. we had deeper family issues that we're trying to keep private right now. I had to be the bad guy and say 'You know what, we've got to take the emotions out of this somehow and how do we do it?' I think not everyone understanding, somebody in the family had to stand up, be the bad guy and say this is how it has to be for now."
Luke also said he kept in contact with Greene during the morning -- even before the hundreds of students were called to the school cafeteria.
Despite the inexplicable string of circumstances, Neal is a tremendous player coming off a terrific senior season. The four-star talent finished 2011 with 2,430 all-purpose yards (1,317 rushing, 1,113 receiving) and 30 total touchdowns. He also was a standout defender and averaged nearly 40 yards per kick return.
Rivals rates him as the No. 17 wide receiver and No. 107 prospect in the 2012 class. He is the final player in the Rivals250 to sign.
In this case, the strangest commitment was saved for last.