UCLA football offensive lineman Raiqwon O’Neal spoke to reporters after Sunday morning’s fall camp session. O’Neal spoke about what drew him to Westwood after deciding to leave Rutgers, how he aims to balance younger and older voices when trying to be a leader, where he got the most work in practice and how it began to adapt to the Southern California lifestyle.
Welcome to Westwood
Thank you for hosting me. I really like it here. So far, so good. I love it here, especially being from the East Coast. It’s a big change for me. I mean, living in Jersey for four years helped me with the transition, so I really loved it here.
How was this transition made?
It was the recruiting process, both going both ways and I just feel like it’s the best fit for me.
What about UCLA?
It was development on and off the pitch especially with what I want to do after football because I want to get into something with media and TV broadcasting so that’s the best route for me after football, so I wasn’t just thinking about football, I was also thinking about life after football.
What are you studying?
Right now I’m in business and entertainment.
Yes Yes Yes. So what you do, I’d love to do.
Experience here so far?
I really like it here. Everything I’ve been through is getting better every day, I want to be 1% better every day and that’s the goal, come here and fly, fly, do it all at full speed. We are going to make mistakes and it’s part of life, you make mistakes but you make them at full speed.
Take other guys under your wing?
Yes sir I am, I also learn from the young guys too because that’s part of being a leader – you can also learn from the young guys too; even though I have experience, they can also teach me something that I have never experienced, so we both learn from each other.
What do you learn from them?
Technically, it has a lot to do with technique, specifically, you know, I’ve never seen that, they’ve never seen stuff, so I would say technique and reading defense.
Laugh when you heard UCLA was moving to the Big Ten?
I laughed. My phone was exploding. My phone was ringing non-stop. Y’all come to the Big Ten. I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah.’
What will it be like for these guys to make the trip to New Jersey?
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I mean, it should be a good experience for them, you know? You don’t always get the chance to go to the west coast or the east coast, so it will be a great experience for both parties.
Rutgers home games at the end of November?
Compared to here? Oh, man. It depends on what you get, you could have strong cold winds or you could have snow and cold wind.
Have you ever played a Snow Bowl game?
Oh, not a snow bowl but a snow game. Maybe during this week it snowed a lot but it was really really cold in that game so yeah it’s just a different experience than being here in LA and on the west coast with the sun all time.
Have you been to LA before that?
I had been there once for vacation but that was about it. Just once.
How do you adapt? Follow the example of your teammates?
Yeah it is, it’s just trying to figure out what they’re doing and understanding everything that’s going on here, my environment, just really adapting, and I love that here.
Days at the beach?
No. I’m not really a beach guy. I spend more time in the theater writing the manual.
Play more left tackle than right?
I play left tackle, but we’re just versatile, learning every position and staying ready.
DTR and Charbonnet?
I love it. I love it, not only them but our whole team is like that too, not only them two but our whole team is like that, we are well surrounded as a team.
Comparing Rutgers to UCLA?
What I have experienced here is wonderful. It was love both places, love both places and love here. It’s a really strong culture in both places and I love it.
Impressed by Mafi losing 70 pounds?
Yeah yeah. I’m really impressed and I’m really happy for him, I’ve heard stories about it and I’m amazed. I’ve seen it before too, so it’s really impressive how we grown-ups can do this and sustain it. Some people say we can’t do that, but watch out, we’ll prove it wrong.
DiGiorgio is a young man fighting for clichés with Rhyan and Anderson gone – what did you see of him?
I’m really impressed with him. It’s not just him, but all of our young guys – they come here and work in the movie theater, study extra, get extra work, I’m impressed with all of them because they came here to work and they came here to play. It’s not just one person, but all the young people, I’m really impressed with all of them.
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