Lewis Neal isn’t your ordinary football player.
The 6-foot-2, 270-pound LSU defensive lineman owns an investment firm, news that leaked over the spring.
That’s not the half of it.
Neal and a friend have created a smartphone app geared for students. They’re planning to launch it soon. He hopes later in life to purchase a real-estate firm, too.
Neal earned enough money from years of day-trading on the Foreign Exchange market that, earlier this month, he bought into a business. He's now co-owner of Hair Factory, a salon at the corner of Nicholson and Lee Drive.
Football player. College student. Investment-firm owner. Financial trader. Hair salon owner.
“Entrepreneur,” a smiling Neal said Wednesday from inside Hair Factory.
Add community servant to the list of Neal’s titles. He and Joan Campbell, his co-owner at the shop, opened Hair Factory to free haircuts for all military and first responders, including law enforcement officers and firefighters. Their families were welcome, too.
He expected a wave of officers to arrive Wednesday afternoon following their shifts. Several barbers stood by, clippers in hand, inside the cozy, 30-year-old salon just off campus.
This is Neal and Campbell’s way of honoring the three officers gunned down on July 17 near the B-Quik on Airline Highway.
“I just wanted to do something positive for the community, just give back and show our appreciation,” Neal said. “We want to have some positive things going around. There’s so much negativity going around. You need some positive things going viral.”
For this community, football is one of those.
It’s right around the corner, too. LSU opens preseason camp on Aug. 4, and Neal, as secure as any starter on defense, will be there working to improve ahead of the Sept. 3 season opener against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field.
Neal, a senior from North Carolina, led the Tigers with eight sacks last season from his defensive end spot. He’ll be playing multiple roles this season in defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s new 3-4 scheme.
Dave Aranda always returned home to California with books.
At various points in Aranda's defense, Neal plays defensive end, defensive tackle and outside linebacker.
“I can’t wait, man,” Neal said. “It’s going to be a great year. We’ve got too much talent. I’m tired of saying that. It doesn’t mean anything. We’ve got to do it. We’ve got everything we need to be successful.”
The Tigers return nine starters on each side of the ball, including a handful of defenders like Neal, who passed on the NFL draft to return for their senior seasons. He’s expected to be one of the centerpieces of Aranda’s unit, one that prides itself in deception and movement.
Neal showed off his strength and build earlier this summer, posting a video on his Twitter account last week of him cleaning 391 pounds. It set an LSU weight room record.
“I could have done more,” a confidence Neal beamed. “Coach (Tommy) Moffitt stopped me. I could have hit at least 405 or 410 if I wanted to.”
Enough of this football and weight room talk, though. Neal’s daily life is filled with so much more.
He’s in the “beginning stages” with his new investment firm. He’s registering it with the proper authorities and will soon be hiring traders.
“One day, I want to own a billion dollar firm and I will,” he said. "I want to be a role model for other athletes to branch out. There are a lot of stereotypes. I want to be able to change them."
Neal spent the last three years of college trading on the Foreign Exchange market, or commonly referred to as Forex, the world’s largest market with a turnover of about $4 trillion a day. He declined to reveal his profit, but it was enough to buy into that hair salon and start his own investment first.
“Very successful,” he smiled.
Campbell’s family opened Hair Factory in 1986. She took over as the daily manager in 2011, and she offered Neal part ownership recently. Campbell, adopted as a child, is originally from Canada. She plans to return there for good next year to be with her biological family. She’ll entrust the shop to Neal – just another business venture for this college football player.
“He’s more of a recognizable figure than I am so that’s brought a lot of attention to the shop,” Campbell said. “He’s going to continue the legacy of the Hair Factory for another 30 years.”