Like Rudolph, he found his spot

The Baltimore Sun

What were your expectations when the Ravens signed you as a free agent Aug. 12?

My expectations were to be the best that I could be and play well and do for this team whatever it needs me to do to win. Those expectations haven't changed. I just want us to win ... our conference. Every goal that we set, we still have a chance at them.

Did you have any benchmarks in terms of playing time?

I knew I'd play. I just didn't know how much. I think early in the season, I was playing a lot, but lately, haven't been in as much as you'd want to be. But it's bigger than you. It's about the game, it's about us winning. So I'm just excited, and I want to win. When you're winning, it makes things a little simpler.

From the time you were waived by the San Diego Chargers in February until the time the Ravens signed you, how stressful was it to have to sit by the phone and wait?

I don't know if it's stressful as much as it's just disappointing when you're revered as one of the best battlers at your position. You're kind of like Rudolph in that you're just playing in those reindeer games because of your age. But you deal with it, you work on it, and you continue to grow.

Who is the toughest linebacker or defensive lineman you've had to block in your career?

I was fortunate to play with Sam Mills, Rickey Jackson [of the New Orleans Saints], and they were tough. [Former Atlanta Falcons linebacker] Jessie Tuggle, I had a lot of great battles with him. There's also this guy by the name of Ray Lewis here in Baltimore. It's been great to play against a lot of great linebackers.

As a former All-America wrestler at Fresno State, do you ever wonder how your life would have been different if you had pursued a career in wrestling?

Sometimes I think I could have won the Olympics. I think I had a shot. Kurt Angle [against whom Neal competed] won it [in 1996]. My heart just wasn't into it. My heart's been into football.

In a wrestling match, who would win between Lorenzo Neal and Ray Lewis, a former state champion in Florida?

That was Florida. I was in California, I was an All-American in college. Me and Ray, everyone would always ask us and we would just laugh it off. In the back of his mind, he thinks he would win, and in the back of mine, I think I would. I just go by the level of competition and who we challenged.

When you were at Fresno State, you were credited in June 1995 with saving the life of Mariann Sjotun, a Bulldogs women's basketball player who was involved in a car accident, by holding her hand until an ambulance arrived. What do you remember of that incident?

I remember that a bunch of people were out and I think we were talking about getting something to eat. We stopped at this intersection where the light turned green and someone under the influence drove something like 70 or 80 miles per hour and ran right through the intersection. It was right in front of your eyes, and I was thinking, "Oh, my God." I just went to her and said: "Hey, you're going to be OK. Hang in there. Keep fighting." It was tough on her and tough on her family. But I know that I didn't save her life. I think the only person who saved her life was God and her wanting to fight for her own life. Those are moments that are just tough.

Because your father, Glen, was a Pentecostal minister, did he have any reservations about you playing a violent sport like football?

My father was always involved in sports when he was growing up. My brother was a professional boxer, and my sister did track and field and participated in sports. I come from a very athletic family, so it was always good.

You're stuck on an island with one CD, one DVD and one book. What are they?

The book would be the Bible. The DVD would probably be The Shawshank Redemption because you're always stuck somewhere. The CD would probably be something from [gospel singers] Kirk Franklin or Hezekiah Walker. That's a pretty good combination.

If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, whom would it be and why?

If I could have dinner with anyone in the world, it would be [President-elect] Barack Obama. I think the reason why is so many times in life, people try to go through it and say: "I can't make it. I can't do it." They always want to blame different people or society. But this is an individual who overcame and put himself in position. It's not that anyone has given him anything, but he has gone out and taken it. He didn't blame society, he didn't say he was one of the have-nots. He's endured.

Edward Lee

about this series

Each Wednesday we'll bring you a Q&A; with a Ravens player to help you learn a little more about the team. Today's guest is fullback Lorenzo Neal, who has been a resource for leadership and experience for his younger teammates. Neal discusses his first season with the Ravens, his background in wrestling and his helping a young woman involved in a car accident.

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