Most members of the City College of San Francisco football team dream of making the leap to big-time Division I college programs — a treasured result of a culmination of their lifetime of hard work.
Kenny O’Neal has been in that national spotlight, and it wasn’t exactly a dream.
O’Neal was a one-time member of one of the most prestigious college football programs in the nation — Florida State — before being dismissed from the squad in the 2005 season.
However, O’Neal has found a new home at CCSF, becoming a model teammate, a respected leader, and an explosive offensive weapon for the Rams.
"Kenny brings a lot leadership to this team, coming from the experience of being in a major college football environment," said coach George Rush, whose squad is ranked first in the state among junior college programs. "He’s done everything we’ve asked of him and really sacrificed a lot for this team. Offensively, he’s extremely versatile, and he’s got enormous big play capability."
That big-play capability was on full display last weekend against Feather River in the Rams’
34-20 triumph. O’Neal caught seven passes for 146 yards,including a 91-yard touchdown reception for the Rams, who improved to 6-0 with the win. The 91-yard scoring catch started on a simple hitch route, with O’Neal catching a short toss from quarterback Zac Lee, before turning upfield and blowing by a number of defenders before reaching the end zone.
Anyone familiar with O’Neal would be accustomed to such a play. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound, wide receiver regularly blew by opposing defenders while attending Skyline High School in Oakland, where he was also the state 100-meter champion in track in 2004.
"I try to make things happen with my speed," said O’Neal, who has 19 catches for 345 yards on the season. "Every opportunity I get to touch the ball I want to try and make a big play out of it. The offensive line and my other wide receivers did a great job blocking on my touchdown catch, and I was able to do the rest."
His mind-numbing speed aside, O’Neal’s most important attribute is his valuable advice to teammates, culled from his experiences at Florida State.
"I try to tell them the best I can to make good choices," said O’Neal, now in his sophomore season of eligibility at CCSF. "The other guys on this team have been real supportive of me, and I try to show my support for them in helping them make the right decisions."
Although O’Neal has full knowledge of the trappings of a Division I athlete, he’s not getting overly anxious about his possible return to major college football.
"I’m only thinking about CCSF football right now," said O’Neal. "And getting another championship banner up on the wall for us."
An eighth national junior college championship for the undefeated Rams is a strong possibility, in much part thanks to O’Neal’s presence, something that is not lost on Rush.
"Kenny came here to play and be a part of our team, and he’s helped us out tremendously," Rush said. "He’s a great kid and he brings great things to this team."