January 2, 2013

O'Neal ready to soar

SAN ANTONIO, Tex. - West Laurens linebacker Johnny O'Neal admits that he prefers the small-town life.

The Dexter native likes living in a community where everyone knows everyone, but the prospect of travelling to San Antonio play in the U.S. Army All-American game had him excited.

The four-star linebacker's enthusiasm was curbed by one small detail, however. It was his first time flying.

"I was a little worried about flying out here," laughed O'Neal. "But It was ok. I had a good trip and I am having a great time thus far."

One of the first things that caught O'Neal's eye at the Army All-American practices was the fact that he is no longer the biggest guy on the field.

"Everyone is big and fast here," said O'Neal. "It is a great challenge to be out here with these players that are great players."

O'Neal, who will wear his regular number 48 in the game that will kick off Saturday at 1 p.m. EST on NBC, also believes that he showing that he, a small town kid from South Georgia, belongs with the elite prospects in San Antonio.

"I mean, at first I didn't know because everyone is so good out here," said O'Neal. "But as the practices have gotten going and we have started working, I feel like I have balled out pretty good. I feel like I have proven that fit in here."

After this game, O'Neal will return to Dexter to finish his senior season before enrolling at UGA this summer.

When the Rivals250 linebacker takes that step to the next level, he knows that there is big time opportunity waiting for him in Athens where Georgia will lose three of its top four inside linebackers going into 2013.

"I know I can play right away," said O'Neal. "I have a chance to go in there and work hard and get playing time. I think that if I go in there and do what I can do, I should be able to start right away, but you never know. I just have to work."

The star linebacker has also been satisfied with how his relationship has grown with his future coaches over the last year.

"Oh I feel like I know the coaches really good," he said. "Coach (Mark) Richt, Coach O (Kirk Olivadotti), and Coach (Todd) Grantham have all been in contact with me and I am excited to play for them."

If O'Neal's excitement level is any indication of the impact he will have in Athens, Georgia fans will be quite satisfied with what the hard-hitting defender brings to UGA next fall.

"Man, I'm so excited," said O'Neal. "I really can't wait to just get there and get going. I just, man, I just can't wait."

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