Hard knocks shaped Joe '9 Lives' Neal

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Hard knocks shaped Joe '9 Lives' Neal

The life of any athlete is filled with hardships, sacrifices and glory. For mixed martial arts fighter, Joe ‘9 Lives’ Neal, that was a part of growing up.

Raised in the heart of Richmond, Neal never knew what stability was. At the age of 9 he, along with his two brothers and mother, were evicted from the only home they had known. Neal and his brothers were sent to live with his grandmother while their own mother left.

“That was my last time saying goodbye to my mom, goodbye I love you. She just kept walking. We stayed.” That stay with their grandmother was short-lived, as the boys were taken away a few weeks later. “My grandmother couldn’t take care of us too long either because she was also on drugs, so it was only about 2 weeks with her, then all of a sudden the police came brought me and my brothers to foster care.”

For years Neal moved from foster home to foster home, never hearing from his mother. It wasn’t until he was in middle school that Neal finally heard news about his mom, but it wasn’t good.

After not seeing his mother for almost four years, Neal’s first time hearing about her is finding out that she had died. Losing his mother and not feeling wanted fueled an angry teenager, but when he reached high school a change started to occur.

“I started playing sports, football and basketball.” Finding sports wasn’t the only change for Neal. What he found helped him reach something new and led to a larger change. “I finally found a foster family that was about love, about god and that believed in me told me soon as I got there, doesn’t matter what you say what you go through, we’re not letting you go nowhere”

With a new family, new goals and a new life, Neal was earning the nickname ‘9 Lives’. He turned his passion for sports to MMA and climbed the ranks to become one of the top amateurs in California. Finishing his amateur career with a spotless 9-0 record, Neal is looking forward to becoming a professional and showing that even the most difficult upbringing can be the foundation for success.

“I look at it and I say it was hard but it was a great experience because I learned so much from it and grew so much from it, and that’s what made the person I am today.”

Nitesh Dutt is a Productions Assistant at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt

Cousins buys chocolate from kids for charity, donates bars to flight staff

Cousins buys chocolate from kids for charity, donates bars to flight staff

DeMarcus Cousins leads the NBA in technical fouls. He also leads the league in scowls and he’s even kicked over a few garbage cans following the Kings' loss to the Chicago Bulls on Saturday night. But that’s just a small portion of who he is.

According to a source that travels with the team, Cousins went out of his way Sunday morning to make an impact in the lives of a couple of local youth in Chicago.

Kids were selling chocolate bars outside the team’s hotel trying to earn money for charity. Plenty of people walked by, avoiding the youth, but Cousins stopped, reached into his pocket and purchased all of the boxes they had to sell.

Later on in the day, Cousins donated the candy to the flight service staff for use on the flight to Detroit.

Cousins gets plenty of negative press for his antics on the floor, but off the court, he is extremely generous. He plays Santa-Cuz during the holidays, buying gifts for underprivileged children in Sacramento and his hometown of Mobile, Alabama. He has also purchased a new scoreboard for a local high school and even paid for the funeral of a local high school football player who lost his life in a drive-by shooting.

No one is perfect, Cousins included, but he also has a genuinely good side that he often doesn’t seek or receive press for.

 

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Kirk Cousins watches Kyle Shanahan's offense carve up Packers

Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent. His uncertain status has led to speculation presumptive 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan will be interested in acquiring him in the offseason.

On Sunday, Cousins got a first-hand look at his former coach’s offense.

Cousins posted a photo on Instagram from the stands at the Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons and their high-octane offense blasted the Green Bay Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship game.

Cousins wrote the caption, “Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!”

Washington finished third in the NFC East and out of the playoffs with an 8-7-1 record.

Shanahan, the Falcons’ offensive coordinator, coached Cousins for the first two seasons of his NFL career with Washington on the staff of his father, Mike Shanahan. Cousins appeared in just eight games with four starts in 2012 and ’13.

Cousins' career has taken off in the past two seasons while starting all 32 regular-season games. He completed 67 percent of his passes this season with 25 touchdowns and 12 interceptions and a passer rating of 97.2.

Washington placed the franchise tag on Cousins this season at nearly $20 million. He franchise tag is expected to be approximately $24 million in 2017.

If Washington places the non-exclusive franchise tag on Cousins, a team could sign him to an offer sheet at the cost of two first-round draft picks or negotiate a trade with Washington for a lesser amount.