NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — After years of excellence in the middle of a stout West Essex Knights defense, Brian O’Neill, a linebacker from Roseland, has decided to take his career to the next level, committing to play college football for the University of Pennsylvania.

O’Neill has been named an All-Conference player for the past three seasons, and has been an All-Essex County player for two years. In addition to these honors, O’Neill will be receiving the National High School Football Coaches’ Association Scholar Athlete for Essex County in March.

O’Neill is a standout athlete on the field, leading the Knights in tackles for the past two seasons, but he also draws attention for his impressive academic achievements.

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He hopes to graduate with a business degree from UPenn, as well as honors including being named All-Conference at linebacker as well as All-American. Eventually, his goal is to make it to the NFL.

O’Neill’s role model as a football player is Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, an instinctive, physical linebacker that leads his team and embodies all of the qualities that O’Neill strives to emulate.

“I look up to Luke Kuechly because he is one of the best players in the league as a linebacker,” O’Neill said. “I try to mirror what he does on the field to become a better player.”

Ever since his days on the West Essex Cowboys D team in second grade, O’Neill has loved the game of football.

“I love the grind and working hard through all of the workouts and playing with my team,” O’Neill said. “I love competing and the physicality associated with football.”

UPenn was only one of a number of schools to offer O’Neill the opportunity to play at the collegiate level—a group that also includes the University of Buffalo, Lehigh, Lafayette, William & Mary, and Temple University. However, O’Neill decided at the end of his senior season that he would be attending Pennsylvania.

“The combination of great athletics on the Division 1 level with world class education made me chose UPenn,” O’Neill said.

On National Signing Day, Feb. 1, O'Neill was joined by his family and coaching staff as he signed his Letter of Intent to play football at UPenn. For this accomplishment, O’Neill has also been named West Essex Athlete of the Week.