Ready for A National Statement

One year after St. Thomas Aquinas won the Florida 5A state championship , Wisconsin commit and Raider linebacker Conor O'Neill has his sights set on a second straight state title and a national championship when Aquinas plays Lakeland in the Citrus Bowl Saturday.

MADISON - After helping lead his St. Thomas Aquinas team to the Florida class 5A state championship as a junior, linebacker and Wisconsin commit Conor O'Neill thought his senior season would be another successful season.

He had no idea that Raiders would be this good.

Sitting at a perfect 14-0, O'Neill and the rest of his Raider teammates, ranked number one in the state, will be looking for their second consecutive when they play second-ranked Lakeland (14-0) this Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Florida Citrus Bowl.

"It's going to be a big game and a big week," O'Neill told Badger Nation. "(The UW coaches) are pretty excited and with me coming from one of the top high school programs in the nation, it is obviously exciting. I think they like that I am bringing a winning attitude and resume when I come up to Madison."

Not only will O'Neill have a chance to win his second state championship, he will have a chance to leave St. Thomas having played on the best high school team in the nation. With his team ranked number one among virtually every high school poll in the nation, O'Neill realizes what is all at stake for his team on Saturday and how far they have come.

"At the beginning of the season, I thought our team would be pretty good, but to be considered one of the top teams in the nation is an honor," he said. "The way our team has adapted and overcame this year, we've had a lot of adversity this year with the inexperience we've had on defense. Everything for us has clicked as we've gone through the season. This team is something special and it's an honor to play with these guys. It's been a wonderful thing."

The team's second leading tackler with 67 stops, including 16 for loss, seven sacks and three caused fumbles, O'Neill says he has equaled those marks this season in tackles, adding two forced fumble and an interception.

Talking with the UW coaches frequently since his commitment on October 6, O'Neill said the coaches are learning towards playing him at weakside linebacker, a position he is comfortable.

While O'Neill might try to get up to Madison for another visit before he enrolls at Wisconsin in the summer time, O'Neill said he was really looking forward to driving the three hours back to Orlando next weekend to watch his future school take on the home state favorite in the Champs Sports Bowl.

"It's exciting because a lot of my friends are Florida State fans so it's been nice talking trash to them," O'Neill said. "It's pretty nice to see my future team play live in a bowl game and the game being close to home. I think it's going to be a great match up. Florida State has been known for its athletes on the field but at the same time, so has Wisconsin. It's going to be nice to see how we match up against the spread offense the Seminoles are running now."

If O'Neill is lucky, he'll see two big wins in the Citrus Bowl in a one week span.

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