As arguably Ohio's top junior, Jamario O'Neal, looked on, teammates Ted Ginn
Jr. and Curtis Terry signed their respective national letters of intent to
attend The Ohio State University, Feb. 4, during a ceremony at their school.
O'Neal, already secure with the knowledge that he will be doing the exact thing a year from now, couldn't have been happier to watch the goings-on during this particularly inspiring Signing Day.
"This is my first time ever watching anybody sign because it really didn't happen at my old school," O'Neal said. "I'm happy for my brother, Ted Ginn Jr., and I'm happy for Curtis Terry. When I first came (to Glenville), I heard about his story and it just gave me chills to know that he's going to Ohio State. No one really gave Curtis a chance, and after I heard his story and what he's been through, I was really happy.
"Everybody doesn't have a life like me or like the fortunate people. His old school didn't really put him out there like Glenville did, and just to see him signing today gave me chills."
O'Neal definitely counts himself among the fortunate people now that he's a part of the Ginn and Glenville families.
"My relationship with Ted Jr. is like he's my brother; we just click. Everywhere I go, he goes," O'Neal said. "And my relationship with Ted Sr. is that he's like my father too. I call him dad and everything. It's a great feeling."
With Ohio State already being his final destination, O'Neal is determined to learn from everything that Ginn Jr. has been through over the past year, as he prepares for the national recruiting attention that is likely to be focused on him beginning any time soon.
"I'm just trying to take everything in stride like Ted did, but I'm just going to try to do it even better," O'Neal said. "It feels good. I'm happy that when I made my decision that I was mature enough to make it at such a young age."
Some people might have what they perceive to be legitimate questions in their minds concerning that maturity of O'Neal, who verbally committed to Ohio State a year ago in February. Just this past August, as he was preparing for his junior campaign at Mansfield Sr. High School, O'Neal was involved in a juvenile delinquent act that resulted in him being convicted of a misdemeanor.
As a result of the falling-out from that particular incident, O'Neal and his father, Walter Jefferson, sought out the guidance of a family friend, Ginn Sr., and subsequently the young gridiron and track star decided to leave his school and transfer to Glenville, where Ginn Sr. eventually became his legal guardian. Because of the legal ramifications, O'Neal remained on the sideline until late in the season while all of the red tape was being processed. By the time the season ended for Glenville, O'Neal was able to log no more than three or four games of actual playing time.
But as a result of the solid foundation afforded to him from the Ginn family, O'Neal seems to have landed firmly on his feet and is now looking forward to his future as a Tarblooder and a Buckeye.
"It feels great. I know that no matter what that I can rebound, no matter what it is," O'Neal said. "(Ginn Sr.) is just like a father to me. He tells me right from wrong, and you can't do nothing but listen to him because he's been through a lot with other kids."
Obviously, O'Neal missed out on some critical development time last season, but he was happy to at least get some playing time before the year ended for Glenville.
O'Neal takes one to the house
"Yeah, I missed some playing time, but I didn't miss a step," he
said. "My team needed me, but they knew how to walk by themselves, and they
just got the job done without me."
Along with Mario Manningham of Warren G. Harding and Alex Boone of St. Edward, O'Neal will be regarded as one of the top three seniors in the state next year, if not the top, and he will likely be the foundation upon which the 2004 Glenville team will be built.
"I'm a leader, and I'm going to do whatever Coach tells me to do, that's just the type of person I am," O'Neal said. "I don't care if it's on the line, I don't care, I'm going to do it. I just want to be on the field."
At Mansfield and even in his brief appearance at Glenville, O'Neal has actually played a myriad of positions, from quarterback, running back, and wide receiver to safety and cornerback.
"I think I'm going to play quarterback this coming season and just try to get down," he said. "On defense, I can play both but I think I'm going to college to be a corner. I think I'm a physical corner, a person that is going to come up and knock you out."
Just as the comparisons are being made of Ginn Jr. becoming the next Chris Gamble at Ohio State, O'Neal seems to have a similar shot at being a party to those same Gamble comparisons, only O'Neal is a bigger and more physical version of the Florida import.
"I'm a cover corner, but I can hit, and Chris can't hit like that. That's the difference," said O'Neal with a big smile on his face. "But I'm just going to be me. I'm going to get better and grow. I haven't arrived and I never will. I just want to get better."
O'Neal will try to help the Tarblooders not only make it to the postseason like they did last year but advance beyond the first round and even farther.
"I'm going to bring a lot of electricity to the team this year, hopefully," he said. "I have some big shoes to fill right now with Ted leaving. Yeah, losing to Ignatius was a hard loss, but I've never played with a team that fought so hard but lost. So, it was bad, but it wasn't really as bad as you think."
In his three years as a varsity performer in the playoffs, including his two appearances at Mansfield, O'Neal has never advanced beyond the first round.
"I never got past the first round, but I'm looking forward to it next year," he said. "Me and (teammate) Tim Conners say we're going 16 games. That means that we're going to go all 15 games of the regular season and then go down to Texas and show out again.
"I'm going to say that whoever we have this year, better watch out because we're all working hard here. Our goal as a team is to be number one in the state and win the state, and that's what we're going to do."
For now, O'Neal takes delight in the prospects of his future both in the short term at Glenville and then at Ohio State. He said his commitment to OSU is as firm as it's ever been, even though he does plan to take a few other official visits next recruiting season.
"Everything has been great," he said. "It's already been a great experience here so far, and I can't wait to see what the future holds. As far as Ohio State goes, just watch out, my brother is going to come down there and do what he has to do, and then when I come, it's going to be all hell."