Davonte Neal weighed his college options for months. When it came time to announce his choice, however, the Scottsdale Chaparral star was nowhere to be found.
Four hours later, Neal confirmed what many Arizona Wildcats fans had feared: The golden dome trumps staying home.
Neal chose Notre Dame over offers from Arizona, Arkansas and North Carolina on Tuesday, giving Irish coach Brian Kelly a franchise-caliber player to build around.
Neal, a wide receiver/cornerback, rushed for 1,317 yards and 16 touchdowns, caught 62 passes for 1,113 yards and 14 touchdowns, and registered 44 tackles last fall as Chaparral won the Division II state championship. The Scout.com recruiting service listed him as a four-star recruit and the nation's fifth-best cornerback prospect. Before Tuesday, he was the nation's top-rated undecided player.
Neal told The Arizona Republic that he was relieved to have the decision out of the way.
"I'm just so happy it's all over with," he said. "I've had some sleepless nights."
Neal's afternoon decision capped a dramatic day. He failed to show up at a 9 a.m. news conference, leaving 600 or so elementary school children, all of whom had been released from class to attend, waiting. At 9:52 a.m., the school's principal dismissed the waiting kids from the assembly.
Neal told the Republic that a family issue was to blame for his delay and declined to comment further.
Neal's decision did little to erase the damage caused by the morning fiasco. Brandon Huffman, Scout.com's West Coast recruiting editor, said the developments were "a terrible indictment of the whole recruiting process."
Huffman said a power struggle between Neal and his father had been simmering for a few days. Monday night, it appeared Neal would play at Notre Dame.
"And not necessarily," Huffman said, "because that's where Davonte wanted to go."