Even the cold, white stuff wasn’t enough to keep Jacob O’Neal from coming.
Despite getting a brush with winter, and snow, on a visit earlier this year to Southern Virginia University, the recent Miners graduate has finalized his plans to attend the NCAA Division III school starting this fall to play football.
Miners Coach Jemalle Cornelius said the Knights will be getting a good one.
“Jacob is a hard worker, that’s the first thing that pops out, and he’s a team player,” Cornelius said. “I’ve had an opportunity to see him develop and grow pretty much anywhere we’ve asked him to play.”
He said that if he didn’t know better, he might think O’Neal was going to be lining up for the Miners again this fall.
“He’s graduated, but he shows up every day to the weight room. He’s still around encouraging guys. You’d think he was still part of the team, that’s just the kind of guy he is,” Cornelius added. “Whatever he does, he does it all the way. Every inch of his body, every pound that he weighs, he’s going to give it to you. As long as you do that, no matter what he decides to do, it’s going to work out for him because he’s a good person.”
As is often the case with small school programs, O’Neal was used at many different spots because of his athletic ability and drive.
“He became one of the better trapping guards around, because he could get there and get it done,” Assistant Miners Coach Gary Cagiano added. “Hard work plays off. He’s a prime example of that, not only on the football field but in the classroom.”
Formerly an NAIA school. SVU is now a provisional NCAA Division III member which is also preparing to enter the New Jersey Athletic Conference as a football-member only effective July 2014. In past seasons, they have played Webber International University a total of five times, including a meeting last November which SVU took by a 27-6 score.
O’Neal, who was also a standout baseball player for the Miners, liked just about everything he saw on his visit there, save for maybe the snow.
“It’s was a small town school, kind of like Fort Meade, so it felt like a second home,” O’Neal said.
He said the Knights are leaning toward putting him at fullback, but are also considering linebacker if he goes to the defensive side of the ball.
“Our staff is looking forward to having Jacob in our football program,” Fitzgerald added. “Jacob is a good student and good football player, exactly what we look for in a recruit. We believe Jacob is going to help us win football games this fall and has the opportunity to become a very good college football player.”