In the lead-up to the NFL draft last spring, Florida safety Keanu Neal looked like the kind of player the Seahawks might consider late in the first round.
He had a lot of similarities to Kam Chancellor and seemed like he could be the formerly disgruntled Pro Bowl safety’s heir apparent.
As it turned out, the Seahawks had no shot at Neal — even if they would have considered taking a defensive back so high. Atlanta drafted him instead, at pick 17 — obviously Dan Quinn’s move to find his own Chancellor.
The interesting twist in this is that Chancellor actually reached out to Neal, despite not knowing him, and offered to teach the rookie how to train NFL style.
“He was a bit surprised,” Chancellor said of the text he sent the rookie. “He just was very thankful and grateful that I reached out to him. I said a few things to him, talked to him and asked him if he wanted to come train with me in the offseason. He was just a grateful kid.”
Chancellor said he taught Neal some “little basic stuff, the fundamentals — just playing that role in general.”
The 6-foot, 211-pound Neal has everything the Hawks love in a DB — the size, the long arms (almost 33 inches), speed (4.59), athleticism (38-inch vertical, 132-inch broad jump). And he has the football acumen.
Chancellor said he sees some of himself in Neal: “I see a lot of resemblance in the way he moves around. Strong, big guy. He’s shorter, but he’s still stocky. He looks huge and heavy, but he still has that speed, for that size. He has the speed, the versatility to cover, to drop back and to come up for the run fits. I see a lot of similarity.”
Neal is coming off a big game in Atlanta’s win over the Broncos, forcing a fumble, tallying hard-hitting eight tackles and holding receivers to 36 yards despite being targeted eight times. So, yeah, it looks like Quinn got his Chancellor.
Chancellor also has previously reached out to Arizona’s Deone Bucannon (the former WSU Cougar) and Jacksonville’s Johnathan Cyprien.
“Any time I see guys (who are) compared to me or guys that say they model themselves after my game, I reach out to them,” Chancellor said. “Just to give them little tidbits, little insights on the things that I’ve experienced through my seven years now. Just anything to give him an edge. I just enjoy helping people. Just little things to help them out with their game and their craft.”
Some reporter tried to stir the pot, asking Chancellor if Seattle’s offensive coaches will be upset if Neal plays well against Seattle.
Replied Chancellor, “It doesn’t give him any cheat codes. He has to go out there and earn everything he gets. I’m happy for him though just to see him play in person.”