New 49ers DB Sends Stirring Message After Being Passed up

Leon O'Neal

Getty Leon O'Neal during the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine.

We already know which member of the rookie class for the San Francisco 49ers will enter the facility with a chip on his shoulder — plus likely have with him a long list of names he vows to remember.

Leon O’Neal of Texas A&M went from being projected to the sixth round, to learning he could go as high as the fourth round, to not hearing his name called during the three NFL Draft days. He heads to the Bay Area as an undrafted free agent safety.

But, in an interview with NFL insider Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network released on Sunday, May 1, he’s sent one stirring message as he prepares for his NFL chapter.

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The Message O’Neal Sent

In less than 10 words, here’s what O’Neal told Wilson:

“I will never, ever forget the names they called,” O’Neal said.

The Aggies safety, who delivered knockout hits in the heavyweight world known as the Southeastern Conference (SEC), is confident in believing that he’s got few peers among the 2022 safety group.

“I was projected from the fourth round to the seventh round, and for my name to not even be called at all, I wish those guys luck, but there’s no chance some of them are on my level,” O’Neal said.

How is it that a safety who snatched six interceptions, swatted 12 passes and collected 108 solo tackles in four seasons playing SEC football fall out of the draft? O’Neal believes that his 40-yard dash time — timed at 4.7 per NFL Draft Buzz — is misconstrued and likely the reason he fell.

“To fall because of a misinterpreted 40-yard dash time, to see a lot of that stuff, that was interesting to me. I had a lot riding on this,” O’Neal said.

O’Neal didn’t just unleash his feelings to Wilson, but took to his personal Twitter account to express his frustration.

But his last tweet reveals his new motivation…plus new photo edits.


Three Messages From O’Neal

O’Neal then sent three more strong messages — the first one about the type of player the ‘Niners are getting.

“They’re getting an enforcer, a leader, a guy who’s dedicated to his craft with a strong work ethic,” O’Neal told Wilson. “I want to learn. I want to get better. That’s the kind of guy they’re getting.”

His second message: It involves his response to going undrafted but being showered with love by the 49ers faithful.

“I ended up going undrafted, but it’s going to be fun. I’ve been playing ball at A&M for four years. I’ve seen the way the fans show love and support for me. That’s the cool part. Now, I’m getting embraced by the 49ers fans and representing the red and gold,” O’Neal said.

Final message: One that involves his 40 time and how it matched a certain legendary 49er.

“The film is what matters; I mean, look at Jerry Rice,” O’Neal explained. “I’m a three-year starter in the SEC. I played against Jaylen Waddle, Ja’Marr Chase, and Justin Jefferson. They all respect me. Numerous guys know I’m the truth. For general managers not to see it, and for guys I know I’m better than still got picked, it’s in my heart. I’m going to play my game and let that speak for me.”

O’Neal saw 21 different safeties get selected. He’s vowing to keep those names and the teams that got them while he aims to deliver these kind of plays in a 49ers uniform:


Leon O'Neal Jr. 2021 Highlights | Texas A&M DB | 2022 NFL Draft ProspectHard-hitting safety for the Aggies 2021 Stats: 58 tackles, 2 INT, 1 sack, 1 FR2022-02-01T03:07:43Z
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