BUSHNELL, Fla. (WFLA) – New Bucs safety Keanu Neal grew up about an hour from Tampa in Webster, and went to high school in Bushnell at South Sumter. He also played college football at the University of Florida.
So coming back to the area was an exciting opportunity for not only Neal, but for his hometown community too.
“It’s home for me,” Neal said. “Everybody from my hometown was super excited. It’s really cool to be so close– close to where I grew up.”
“I couldn’t think of a better place for him to be,” said Ty Lawrence, who was Neal’s defensive coordinator when he was at South Sumter and is now the Raiders’ head football coach. “We get to see him a lot more often now not just on TV but we can actually go and watch him play.”
Coach Lawrence has known Neal since he was little, and spoke glowingly of his former player, who he’s still close with. Neal even invited him as his guest to the 2017 Pro Bowl when he made the all-star roster as a member of the Atlanta Falcons.
“He does everything the right way,” Lawrence said. “He’s a coach’s dream. He does everything the coaches ask him and above and beyond.”
Keanu who is known as Keke back home is still very much a part of his hometown communities in Webster and Bushnell.
“Keke’s never forgotten where he’s come from,” Lawrence said. “He always comes back.”
And he was even back as recently as last month.
“We were practicing seven on seven out on the field and here he comes driving up,” Lawrence said. “For our kids to be able to take his coaching—because he plays at the highest level—is very special for our kids here.”
Keanu and his other brother, Clint Hart, who also played in the NFL, have both donated their time and money to South Sumter over the years. Part of that generosity can be seen in their new weight room the school was able to build.