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FILE - In this Nov. 2, 2020, file photo, the NFL logo is displayed at midfield during an NFL football game between the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the New York Giants in East Rutherford, N.J. There are some very rich people about to get a whole lot richer. Who else but NFL owners? Probably within the next week, those 32 multi-millionaires/billionaires will see their future earnings increase exponentially. The league is on the verge of extending its broadcast deals with its current partners, and with a new full-time rights holder in Amazon likely acquiring streaming rights. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger, FIle)

Keanu Neal returns to Florida to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Former Gator, Keanu Neal, is returning to the sunshine state to play for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Not only will Neal be changing teams, but he will also be trading positions. Formerly playing as a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys last season, he will now switch back to playing as a safety. Prior to Neal’s run for the Cowboys, he had five years of experience as a safety for the Atlanta Falcons. According to the former Gator, the decision to change back to playing safety was a choice. He now holds hopes to establish himself as a top player in the position.

The Bucs made the official announcement on Wednesday evening and noted Neal as a versatile talent.

Neal in his Career

Over his career, the former Gator has established himself as one of the hardest-hitting safeties in the league. Neal started in all of his 30 games across his first two seasons at Atlanta. After a strong professional debut, a whirlwind of injuries would interfere with his next few seasons. Last year, Neal signed as an unrestricted free agent with the Cowboys. There he joined former Atlanta Head Coach Dan Quinn, who had just taken a position as defensive coordinator. The switch to linebacker was agreed on to take advantage of Neal’s tackling abilities. During the 2021 season, COVID-19 forced Neal to sit out for three games. He appeared in 14 contests with five starts for the season. Neal finished the season with 72 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss and two quarterback hits.

Neal’s professional career initially began in 2016 when he entered the NFL draft as a 17th-overall pick. Originally a Florida native, Neal played as a safety for the Florida Gators from 2013 to 2015. During his time in Florida, Neal played almost every game across three seasons, aside from when injuries struck him to the sidelines.

Neal now becomes the third Gator to join the Bucs, alongside formers Kyle Trask and Fred Johnson. Trask signed a four-year deal with the Bucs in 2021, following his college commencement. Johnson, who is a former Bengals offensive linesman, also officially signed to Tampa on Monday.

With three former Gators, and the return of Tom Brady, the future holds an exciting 2022 season for Tampa Bay.

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