Purdue DT Lorenzo Neal Jr.: Different Position Than Dad … But Good Fit For Ravens?

2021 NFL Draft prospect Lorenzo Neal Jr. comes from football legacy, which is apparent simply based off his name. His father, Lorenzo Neal Sr., is regarded as one of the greatest fullbacks of all time. Neal is attempting to take after his father in the NFL, as he recently put a bow on a distinguished career at Purdue as a defensive tackle.

Lorenzo Neal Jr. remembers the Baltimore area fondly from his time as a kid; his father played his final season in Baltimore in 2008, which turned out to be terrific season for the team. Not only was it Joe Flacco’s rookie year, but the Ravens reached the AFC championship game after next to no expectations going into the season. Neal, who was about 10 years old at the time, once had the assignment of making sure all the coaches got their clipboards and notes on game day.

Considering the confluence of circumstances, the Ravens could be an ideal fit for Neal. Defensive tackles Calais Campbell and Brandon Williams are entering the final year of their deals, and at 6-foot-3 and 325 pounds, Neal plays the hard-nosed style that typically fits with the Ravens’ defense. Neal would be incredibly receptive to joining the organization.

“The Ravens have had several of the greatest defenses in NFL history,” Neal said on Glenn Clark Radio March 8. “I think that’s something that culturally everybody understands around the NFL. I think that’s important because you want to go to a team that plays good and solid defense.”

Neal didn’t get to this position because of his father. He established himself as a legitimate Division I prospect while attending St. Thomas High School in Houston, winning two All-District MVP awards. He would take a few snaps on offense occasionally, but where he thrived — and where recruiters saw him succeeding — was at defensive tackle.

A three-star prospect in high school according to 247Sports, Neal choose Purdue over several other Division I offers. Still, even though he was succeeding, he still had to overcome the expectations that came with his

“My dad was the best at his position,” Neal said. “It was always seen from the outside as a daunting task — like how are you possibly going to be able to what he has done? — because he is such a legend.”

Neal proved himself at Purdue. He appeared in 38 games for the Boilermakers from 2017-2020, amassing 73 total tackles (13.0 for loss) and four sacks. He also had four forced fumbles, demonstrating a knack for the ball. His impressive junior campaign (30 tackles) netted him All-Big Ten honorable mention honors in 2018.

However, a torn ACL suffered in November 2018 forced Neal to miss the 2019 season. He didn’t get into a rhythm during the shortened 2020 season, either. He said it took him a little while to readjust to the speed of the game after coming back from his injury, and once he did, the season was over. The Boilermakers’ regular-season finale against in-state rival Indiana was canceled twice.

“It was a bit of a mess,” Neal said of the 2020 season. “I think what was tough was that we only got to play six games. I felt like as the season was progressing, I was getting more comfortable. Obviously, when you have a year off, that’s something that you have to get adjusted to, just to get back to game-speed football. I think it took me one or two games as it normally would, and I feel like I was really coming into myself again.”

Currently, Neal is preparing for life in the NFL. Draft sites don’t peg him as a high draft pick, but his size and track record of success will most likely earn him an opportunity in training camp. Neal is confident that there are plenty of roles he can fill at the next level.

“I think what I most bring to the table is my ability to use my size and power as well as my athleticism and quickness,” Neal said. “I think a lot of people see me as a run-stuffing, 0-tech nose guard, which I can absolutely do every day of the week. But I also like to show that in college I played in a 4-3 and a 3-4, and I was able to use my quickness to make disruptive plays. I think that’s something I can bring to the table that a lot of bigger guys don’t have.”

For more from Neal, listen to the full interview here:

Photo Credits: Courtesy of Purdue Athletics and Phil Hoffmann/Baltimore Ravens