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Reigning IFL MVP joins Knight Hawks ahead of new season

Updated March 24, 2023 - 9:35 pm

Vegas Knight Hawks coach Mike Davis is expecting big things from his new quarterback, 2019 Indoor Football League MVP Daquan Neal.

Davis said Neal’s athleticism and arm strength are similar to NFL quarterbacks Lamar Jackson and Justin Herbert.

“(Neal’s) not a one-trick pony. He’s not just a scrambler,” Davis said. “He throws a beautiful ball that has great touch. He’s a pro and he’s a perfectionist. He’s a guy that wants to be great.”

The Knight Hawks host the Iowa Barnstormers at 7 p.m. Saturday at Dollar Loan Center in Henderson to begin the 2023 season. They finished 6-10 last season and in fifth place in the seven-team Western Conference in their inaugural season, missing the playoffs by one spot in the standings.

While Neal is looking to provide stability at quarterback, he wasn’t a part of Davis’ original plans for the season.

Three weeks ago, Cameron Dukes, who established himself as the Knight Hawks’ starter late last season, signed with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League.

Davis had known Neal for a few years and had reached out to him earlier this year to lift his spirits after Neal was cut before training camp for the USFL.

When the Knight Hawks’ quarterback position came open, Davis jokingly texted Neal, “you want next?”

After discussions with Davis, Neal signed with the Knight Hawks. He missed the first two days of training camp and joined the team on Sunday. “He checks all the boxes,” Davis said.

Neal joins the Knight Hawks, who have a mix of returners from last season and new players.

After coming back to the IFL in 2022 after spending seven years coaching in the CFL, Davis said last season was a chance for him to relearn the league. He said having a returning core of contributors has helped bring everyone together in the short training camp.

“They know the expectations and they’ve helped in the room with all the new players that are coming in,” Davis said. “They’ve helped with laying the foundation for guys that this is the expectation.”

Throughout training camp, Davis said he’s been impressed with the improvements the returners have made.

He pointed to wide receiver Kasey Allison, a Canyon Springs High graduate, and defensive back Kalen Hicks, a Bishop Gorman graduate, as two returners who have stood out in camp.

“The guys who came back, who were returning, had great camps. … What’s more impressive for us is the guys that we have returning have had great training camps,” Davis said.

Among notable additions, the Knight Hawks signed wide receiver Quentin Randolph and defensive lineman Jamahl Johnson, both won an IFL championship last season with Northern Arizona.

Davis said winning a championship is the team’s goal. He said he believes the team has addressed the issues it had with defense and special teams.

To achieve their goal and show improvements from last year, Davis said the Knight Hawks will have to display those improvements in game action.

“We got to come out and put our best foot forward here Saturday against a really good Iowa team,” Davis said. “… At the end of the day, we have to find a way to get into the playoffs. If we do, anything can happen.”

Contact Alex Wright at awright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AlexWright1028 on Twitter.

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