Veteran National Football League Fullback and local native Lorenzo Neal paid a special visit to patients at Children’s Hospital Central California, signing autographs, posing for pictures and encouraging children.
“It’s an honor to be here,” said Neal, whose April 20 visit was sponsored by El Monterey and Ruiz Foods. “My daughter spent some time here at Children’s Hospital so I understand what it’s all about.”
Neal, who most recently played for the Baltimore Ravens, shared how his daughter suffered a seizure and had to be rushed to Children’s Hospital. His story hit home for Jacqueline Ross, of Chowchilla. Her son, Clayton, 10, has battled Rasmussen’s encephalitis, a rare disease which affects the brain and is characterized by frequent and severe seizures.
“Anyone who brings attention to [seizures] is a hero to me,” said Ross. “He was a very nice man.”
Neal, who was born in Hanford and attended Lemoore High School, also made a special connection with patient Sophia Rodriguez, 9, of Fresno. Sophia shared how she used to live in Lemoore and they discussed life in that city.
“It was exciting,” said Sophia of meeting Neal. “I tried to hold the excitement in. I really tried.”
Neal has been visiting Children’s Hospital since his days at California State University, Fresno, where he wrestled and played football while earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He said it’s something the coaching staff helped instill in him.
“It’s about giving back and helping those who are less fortunate than you are,” said Neal. “It’s always been something that’s a part of me.”
Neal finished his college career with 2,405 yards rushing. He was an All-Big Western selection his junior and senior seasons. During his NFL career, Neal has been a four-time Pro Bowl selection, and a three-time All-Pro selection. He has also been the lead blocker for nine consecutive 1,000-yard rushers in the NFL and will be entering his 17th season. Other teams he has played for include the New York Jets and the San Diego Chargers.
“I think football has been a platform for me to get my message out and hopefully I can instill something today’s youth,” said Neal.