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A Dream Deferred

Having had his moment, DeJuan Neal wants more

DeJuan Neal, right, a 2014 graduate of Southern High School, practices with the Washington Redskins prior to his sole game in the NFL before being released as a free agent.
      DeJuan Neal, a 2014 graduate of Anne Arundel’s Southern High School, lived his dream — for one memorable game. 
      On Thursday, August 15, 2019, the 5-foot-10-inch, 190-pound, 23-year-old cornerback played football for the Washington Redskins. The Cincinnati Bengals spanked the ’Skins 23-13 in Neal’s one and only NFL appearance.
      Within seven days, he was signed as a free agent, then waived by the Redskins. 
      “I was extremely blessed with the opportunity to play with the ’Skins,” Neal told Bay Weekly only 20 hours after his unexpected return to free agency. 
     Great as that was, his goal is to play ball, and he doesn’t mind, he said, where he plays. 
      Local kid drafted to play on local team sounds like a fairy tale come true. The reality behind the past week’s headlines was years of hard work. He credits the passion he saw in his father, one of his first coaches, as his inspiration. From childhood, he saw himself playing football, and he sweated for his dreams.
      “I had no real summer vacations as a kid because of practice, and then no partying or anything like that as a high school kid or in college,” Neal said.
     When called up by the Redskins, Neal was a senior studying at Shepherd University to be an athletic coach. He’s put that on the back burner as he pursues his immediate goal of playing professional football. 
     As for his current status, it’s just another one of the “ups and downs” that chronicle a career of devotion to the game. “You just have to stay dedicated and train as if you’re the best,” Neal said.