First Columbus, Then San Antonio For O'Neal

Jamario O'Neal's exciting weekend will start in Columbus and then he'll hop on a plane bound for San Antonio on Sunday. After officially visiting Ohio State, the school he committed to nearly two full years ago, he'll fly to Texas where he'll officially take part in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 15.

At one time early on in his prep career at Mansfield Senior High School, Jamario O'Neal was one of the most highly anticipated young prospects in the state of Ohio.

O'Neal was offered a football scholarship to Ohio State in the winter of his sophomore year and he gave a verbal commitment to become a Buckeye at that time. He was the first member of the 2005 recruiting class at Ohio State.

But O'Neal regretfully ran into some trouble with the law that following summer and since that time it's been a somewhat arduous yet successful reincarnation process for him. A process that began with his transfer to Glenville High School in time for his junior season and continues on to this day.

And now he's finally set to take that official visit this weekend to that same school that he committed to so long ago. It's truly a special weekend for O'Neal.

"This is really a big weekend for me," O'Neal said. "It starts off great. I'm going to Ohio State for my official visit with my father and then goes on through the weekend. Little Ted (Ted Ginn Jr.) is my host so I'm looking forward to that. And Sunday I leave from there to go to San Antonio for the big game. So I really can't wait."

The big game he's referring to is the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and O'Neal was informed that he would be playing in that contest just this past Sunday. He'll leave Columbus in the early morning on Sunday and fly to San Antonio to take part in the week long event that will culminate the following Saturday in a gridiron clash of the East vs. West All-Stars in front of nationally televised NBC audience.

But first O'Neal's much anticipated official visit to Ohio State will begin sometime on Friday and his Tarblooder teammate Freddie Lenix will be on his official visit to OSU as well.

"Me and Fred are going to be down there together. We're not driving down there together but we're taking our visit on the same days," O'Neal said. "I just want to have fun and enjoy my weekend. I've already seen all of the campus and I found out all about the academic side of Ohio State all of last year. But I'm going to go through it all again because it's the process that you have to go through on your visit."

But no matter how many times that he's been to Ohio State in the past and seen all there is that he thinks there is to be seen already, O'Neal is really excited for this particular visit.

"I'm really happy about it and I'm really looking forward to it," he said. "I've been down there many times but this is special. This is the official visit so I can't wait for it."

On the visit, O'Neal will reunite for the weekend in Columbus with his big brother Teddy Ginn. When O'Neal transferred from Mansfield to Glenville, the Ginn family assumed legal guardianship over O'Neal and he'll be forever grateful to the entire Ginn family for that.

"It's going to feel like old times," O'Neal said. "(Ginn Jr.) don't live in the house no more so it's going to be really good to get to spend a little bit of time with him."

In addition to all the formal functions that O'Neal will participate in on his visit to Ohio State, O'Neal hopes to help attract some of the other top recruits that are there on the visit with him as well as some others when he goes to San Antonio.

"I'm going to have to do some more recruiting of my own because I want to have a good recruiting class coming in with me," he said. "I'm just going try to do what I can to get the best players to come in."

Unfortunately O'Neal will have to miss out on the Sunday morning breakfast at Ohio State with all of the recruits because his flight to get to San Antonio leaves Columbus at 9 a.m. With the actual contest just a week away, O'Neal claims to be in great shape to play in the prestigious all-star game.

"I never took any time off. Even when we had break I was at home with my father and I was always going to work out and run and stuff," O'Neal said. "For some reason I kept working out because I just knew that I was going to get in the game so I never stopped working out."

Being a late addition to the roster, O'Neal doesn't feel any need to validate his participation in the game or any pressure to play up to anyone else's level of expectations either.

"There's no pressure at all on me," he said. "I'm not going there to do any more than I'm capable of doing. I'm just going to go there and play my game. And if I play my game, then good things are going to happen."

He expects to play some at both corner and safety in San Antonio, giving Ohio State fans that will be watching a sneak-peak into how his future career as a Buckeye might look.

"I don't know where I'll play (at the all-star game). As long as I get in it really doesn't matter," O'Neal said. "But I think I'm a boundary corner because I can cover and I can come down to hit. So I think that's my position."

But he's played almost exclusively at safety since his sophomore year.

"I haven't played corner since then but when were at practice I always work with the corners," said O'Neal who tried his hand at corner this year for about a quarter against Mario Manningham of Warren G. Harding and was subsequently moved back to his safety position. "Safety is kind of a natural position for me and I have to work more on my skills as corner if I want to get better."

Regardless of how he plays in the game or even how much of the game he plays in, O'Neal is just looking forward to the entire experience of being just a part of the game.

"I've been thinking about that for the last couple of days and I can't wait to play with a great group of kids that are all just as good as me," he said. "I know a couple of players in the game, Boone (Alex Boone) is going to be there, and there's a couple of guys that I went up against when I was at the combine there last year and I think I can play with them.

"But I'm just trying to see all that the West has because that's who I'm going to be matching up against. The West thinks that they're better than us anyway so I'm just going to try to help my team come out of the game with the victory."

When O'Neal returns to Ohio after the all-star game, he'll turn his focus to track where Glenville will try to defend their back-to-back state titles in Division I in Ohio.

"We had our first track practice today and that went real well," he said. "Between now and the summer time, we'll just see what happens."

Glenville will be without Ginn Jr. this season on the oval but the squad is still loaded with quality athletes led by O'Neal and Lenix.

"We had to work for the title last year and we believe this year we still have to work for it. But we think that there is nobody out there that works harder than us," O'Neal said. "We earn everything that we get and I think that we can repeat again."

Both O'Neal and Lenix are very competitive in nature and one of the two is likely to assume the lead role that Ginn Jr. had the past few years for the Tarblooders.

"We always try to beat each other and that just makes each of us even better," O'Neal said. "So if I lose to him or he loses to me, we don't take it to heart. We just know that the better guy won that time. On our team now we really don't have a faster guy, we just know that on any given day you could be beat."

And by the time his track season ends, O'Neal knows that it will be close to that time when he'll officially become an Ohio State Buckeye. Like Ginn Jr., O'Neal intends to make the very most of it in his first year.

"That first year at Ohio State is real important because your first year is what puts you out there and gets your name circulating out there," O'Neal said. "Little Ted had a good year in his first year and I plan on doing the same."

Inevitably, O'Neal will be compared to Ginn whether he wants to be or not.

"I think I could play offense just as well as he can," O'Neal said. "And defensively, he can do some things that I can't do and I can do some things that he can't do. But you really can't compare us. We play two different styles of football."

O'Neal might actually find himself in a competition with Ginn in his first year for that open cornerback spot on defense that was vacated by the graduation of Dustin Fox.

"I think I'm working harder this year than I ever worked in my life so I can be ready when I come down there," O'Neal said. "I just want the opportunity to have a chance to play right away."

And he thinks Lenix will be right there with him at Ohio State next year.

"I think he might commit as soon as possible," O'Neal said. "I think he'll probably pull the trigger this weekend."

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