Telly O’Neal is one of the best players from the Bessemer, AL area in the Class of 2026.
The 5-foot-5, 135-pound O’Neal, who attends Jonesboro Elementary, is an imposing player that works as an offensive and defensive lineman for the Bessemer Tigers.
O’Neal has earned plenty of recognition during his outstanding career, such as being selected as for an offense award at the Tournament of Champions and Heisman Award (2016) for his league.
O’Neal is humbled by the accolades.
“Getting those awards really shows me that I have great potential as long as I work hard work and show dedication,” O’Neal said. “It was an awesome experience and I got to meet new friends from all over the state. These awards really make me want to keep improving to get better.”
No matter the opponent, every game O’Neal is determined to give it his all.
O’Neal is going all out.
The motor is always at full throttle whenever O’Neal steps between the lines.
“My mindset on the field is to execute every play to the best of my ability,” O’Neal said. “I want to make the opponent have to work for everything they get on the field.”
O’Neal has great passion and energy whenever he’s on the field. O’Neal tells why he enjoys the game of football so much.
“The thing I love about football is executing defensive plays and my brotherhood of my teammates,” O’Neal said. “My teammates are like brothers to me and I love to win games with them.”
O’Neal has learned many valuable lessons from playing football that he applies to his everyday life.
The main one is applying perspective to all situations.
“Playing football has taught me so much about life in general,” O’Neal said. “It has taught me about discipline and hard work. You can make anything happen if you work hard enough at it.”
O’Neal recalls his favorite football memory.
“My favorite memory was playing in nationals in Fort Lauderdale and being on the jumbo screen,” O’Neal said. “That was such a cool moment and I’m never going to forget that feeling.”
Richard French is O’Neal’s coach for the Bessemer Tigers.
French explains the best parts of O’Neal’s game.
“O’Neal plays offensive and defensive line. The best part of his game is that he can use his hands very good and has very high football IQ,” French said. “I don’t know too many 10-year-olds that be physical and use their hands the way he does.”
O’Neal takes his role as one of the leaders on the team very seriously. O’Neal makes sure he’s a daily positive influence on his peers.
“I demonstrate being a good teammate by always encouraging my teammates even when we’re down,” O’Neal said. “The best advice I give to my teammates is to keep your head up and never quit. Go hard until the last whistle.”
French adds that O’Neal is one of those consummate teammates that every squad needs to be successful.
“He is a very good leader, and very vocal with his leadership to his teammates,” French said. “He sets a great example for his peers to follow and they really respect him.”
O’Neal is appreciative of having amazing male role models that are supportive.
“My coaches have taught me so much about how to be a better player and person on and off the field,” O’Neal said. “They tell me to always believe in myself and teamwork makes the dream work. The best advice that my coaches give is to keep pushing and don’t ever give up no matter what.”
French is an advocate of O’Neal’s capabilities.
“Man where do I start? O’Neal will shut down a whole side of a field on defense,” French said. “He’s a threat whenever he steps on the field. He has the ability to lock down an offense. The offense has to always be aware of him or else they’re going to be in major trouble.”
In addition to making clutch plays, O’Neal is developing a high level of football IQ as well.
O’Neal is growing into excellent football awareness that puts him in position to thrive.
“He’s a very smart player that always puts himself in the right spot to make plays,” French said. “He will call out your play before you run it. He truly understands the game and how to make an impact.”
O’Neal is on the grind to perfect and hone his craft in any way possible.
“O’Neal has very good work ethic and he loves to compete,” French said. “He trains hard at practice and works out on his own as well.”
French explains why he compares O’Neal to this standout.
“If I would have to compare him to anyone it would be J.J. Watt with the way he comes off the line a rocket,” French said. “He shows amazing explosiveness just like Watt in this age group.”
O’Neal patterns his mentality after Beast Mode.
“I look up to Marshawn Lynch because he’s unstoppable and he always makes an impact on the field,” O’Neal said. “That’s the way I try to be on the field at my own positions.”
O’Neal is constantly striving for greatness in everything that he does.
“My goals on and off the field are to succeed in every aspect of life and keeping God first,” O’Neal said. “I want to make sure my family and loved ones are proud of me in everything that I do.”
O’Neal explains his collegiate aspirations.
“I would love to one day play at Oregon University because of the rich history they have,” O’Neal said. “I want to help the Ducks win the national title and I love the way their uniforms look.”
O’Neal lists math as his favorite subject in school.
“My favorite subject is math because I love multiplying and division,” O’Neal said. “Math is an important subject that you need in your life.”
French believes the sky is the limit as long as O’Neal continues to stay hungry.
“O’Neal has a very bright future because there’s nothing he can’t do on the field,” French said.
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