As the Atlanta Falcons prepare to host the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, a Seahawks jersey hangs in the Falcons Locker room.
Atlanta rookie Keanu Neal has a signed Kam Chancellor jersey hanging in his locker, a gift from a safety he models his game after that Chancellor gave him when these teams met in October. Neal was asked this week if, considering the Falcons' playoff opponent, that jersey might come down temporarily, but explained that he would leave it up.
"Nah," Neal told ESPN.com. "I'll just leave it in there. ... The brotherhood is bigger than football. It's not going against the Seahawks and everything like this. We're brothers. I don't see it as, 'OK, it's Seahawks, so I've got to hide it.' It's Kam Chancellor. It's a brother to me."
Chancellor was happy, but not surprised, to hear that Neal had that response about their relationship, which formed in the offseason when Chancellor cold-called—OK, cold-Tweeted—Neal because he heard the first-round pick looked up to him.
"It's bigger than football," Chancellor said. "It's the relationships you build while you're playing this game. You don't want to leave this game empty handed… He has been like a little brother to me."
Chancellor, who has become something of a big-safety prototype for this era, has made a point of reaching out to young safeties who look up to him, even if he still finds it odd to be in that position of role model to young NFL players. In addition to Neal, Chancellor has also worked out in the offseason with Cardinals safety Deone Bucannon and Jaguars safety Johnathan Cyprien.
"I don't look at myself like, 'I'm Kam Chancellor,'" Chancellor said. "I'm just another human being trying to help out another human being."
Added Neal: "We text from time to time, just to stay in touch and everything. And he's helped me out football-wise, and off the field as well. It's a brotherhood. He's huge on helping people. He's big on, 'Each one, teach one,' just being able to help everybody. And he's definitely helped me a lot."
Even if he helps a player who is an opponent this week, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes seeing one of his veteran leaders reach out to other young players.
"That's a great credit for Kam," Carroll said. "He is a trendsetting guy. He's such a physical presence and everybody knows when he's playing and what he does and the impact he has. Neal is really good, he's fast and explosive and instinctive and natural playing the game. He's going to be a great player. There's so much room for him to grow in the scheme and the playmaking ability. You remember back, Kam didn't play his first year, he played behind Lawyer (Milloy) and that was to bring him up the right way and we had the opportunity to do that. (Neal) has been thrown in there his first year and he's grown immensely. He's going to be a great player."