In recent years, college football recruits have often opted to graduate early from high school, and enroll for the spring semester at their committed school. While it is customary for recruits to pick their school on the February 7th, National Signing Day, those that had verbally committed to a University want to get ahead of the curb.
There are a lot of benefits that come with being an early enrollee. For instance, recruits get to participate in spring practice with their new college team; allowing them to meld with their upperclassmen teammates, as well as learn a new system just in time for the beginning of the season. Early enrollment also allows recruits to get used to the college life a lot quicker, as they can get adjusted with the student body a lot better in the spring than in the fall, as well as get ahead of their academics. If they come in with a long-term injury, recruits will have access to team rehabilitation treatment that would help them get to one hundred percent prior to the start of the season (if you want to learn more about early enrollment, visit this link here).
For three-star offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal, early enrollment will be beneficial not only for his football development but for his academic development as well. The 6’5, 270 pounder told Armchair All-Americans that one of the main reasons he chose Rutgers was for the school’s educational quality.
“The education I can get there [Rutgers] is a pretty major factor,” said O’Neal. “The environment in and out of the campus is generally positive, and as well as the people there.”
While O’Neal aspires to play football professionally, he knows to also keep a backup plan handy.
“I want to do graphic design. I love to draw, I really like getting creative, and I can use that to get a respectable salary, in case I don’t make it to the NFL,” O’Neal told Armchair. “I’ve been drawing since I was in elementary school, and I always thought it would be a pretty cool career choice.”
Balancing school with football has been no easy feat for O’Neal. Even though he practices every day with the Conway Tigers Football team, O’Neal also meets with a tutor on a regular basis, helping him maintain a remarkable 3.77 GPA while helping him fast-track his early enrollment. O’Neal told Armchair that the main reason he does all this (play football, study hard, go to college, etc.) is his family.
“I work hard for my family,” O’Neal said. “I think about the sacrifices my mom made for my sisters and me growing up, and I want to be able to do the same.”
O’Neal’s talent on the gridiron has helped him get on the right path to accomplishing that dream. Starting to play at the age of seven, O’Neal was easily the most versatile player on the field. He played as a running back, fullback, linebacker, and along the defensive line, just to name a few.
However, he took a break from football afterward, only to come back to the sport in eighth grade.
“When I got back, they put me at tackle, and I was there until high school, where they moved me all around the offensive line. My junior year in high school, they had me playing tight end, as well as linebacker, guard, tackle, and defensive end.” O’Neal said.
In his senior year, O’Neal has stuck to playing left tackle for the Tigers but has also seen time as a defensive end, both in which he has excelled.
When asked where he would like to play when he came to Rutgers, O’Neal said he was open to anything.
“I am willing to play at any position they put me at; whatever helps the team,” stated O’Neal. “I believe in the rebuilding process that Coach [Chris] Ash is doing there, and I want to be a part of it.”
Thanks to his hard work, O’Neal was invited to participate in the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl this December in New Orleans. The game features players that have excelled on two or more positions on both sides of the ball, something O’Neal is has excelled at.
“It was a blessing,” O’Neal said about being invited to play. “There was a lot of excitement and joy [from my family and me]. It shows that all my hard work has been paying off, but at the same time, I can’t stop now. I have to keep working harder, get better, and never stop trying.”
O’Neal has demonstrated not only to be a remarkable athlete but a remarkable young man. Respectful, family-orientated, and knows the value of a good education; O’Neal seems like the type of young man that will excel in any endeavor he chooses.
For all your collegiate and professional apparel needs, check out 365 Gameday.