Pitt left tackle Brian O’Neill will enter the NFL Draft after his redshirt junior season, he announced through a university press release on Friday.
“After careful consideration over the last few weeks, I have decided to enter the 2018 NFL draft,” O’Neill said in the statement. “I do not take this decision lightly; therefore, I took an extensive amount of time discussing the situation with my family and coaches. Ultimately, I believe this is the best course of action to achieve my ultimate goal.”
O’Neill, 22, was a three-year starter for the Panthers, playing at left tackle in 2017 and right tackle in 2016 and 2015.
He was originally recruited to play tight end at Pitt out of Salesianum School in Wilmington, Delaware and was rated as a three-star prospect at that position, according to 247Sports and Rivals. But he made the switch to offensive tackle in the summer of 2015 due to the team’s need, and he embraced the role. O’Neill was selected twice as an all-ACC player during his time at Pitt.
“I am forever grateful to a number of individuals instrumental in my development as a player and person,” O’Neill continued. “Coach [Pat] Narduzzi and Coach [Jonh] Peterson’s support and guidance has been incredible. I am truly appreciative for them and all my teammates and coaches. Additionally, I maintain a special appreciation for Coach Dave Andrews, Coach Dave Bucar and Mark Diethorn. I will never be able to thank all the people who have helped me throughout the past several years, but their support does not go unnoticed.”
Despite putting on 45 pounds in the transition to the offensive line, O’Neill never lost the athleticism that made him a solid tight end prospect and became a weapon for the Panthers on offense, scoring two touchdowns in 2016 and winning the Piesman Trophy for lineman doing un-linemanlike things.
O’Neill was rated as the No. 19 tackle in the Class of 2019, thanks to WalterFootball.com and carried a 5th to 7th round grade.
He is the third Pitt player to depart early for the NFL Draft this offseason, joining Quadree Henderson and Jordan Whitehead.
Best wishes to Brian O’Neil, @jwhite_333 & @DreeHenderson You guys will ALWAYS be Panthers and you’ll ALWAYS have our support as you pursue your dreams in football and life. Thanks for all you’ve done to make Pitt proud! Hail to Pitt!
— Pat Narduzzi (@CoachDuzzPittFB) December 15, 2017