It’s not that often that BYU gets tall, athletic and fast non-LDS African American athletes to sign a letter of intent to play for the Cougars, especially when those athletes are all the way from the Sunshine State of Florida. Harmony’s O’Neill Chambers is as special as they come, and it only takes a few minutes talking with the All-Central Florida prospect to fully understand why.
“The atmosphere when I went up to BYU for the second time with my mother - my dad was working out of state and couldn’t make it - was just great,” Chambers said. “I went to a basketball game when I was there and saw how the fans supported the players.
“They had a lot of spirit and showed a love for the game and it was a great experience. My mom liked it as well. A lot of it was based on how my mom felt about me going up there because I was just waiting for one of my parents to go up there to experience it for themselves.”
Like a good mother, Linette Chambers played a big role by taking interest in her son’s recruiting experience. She did her homework, asked questions and made sure her son was making the right choice.
“It was a big turning point because my mom was asking all kinds of questions when she was there,” Chambers said. “She wanted to learn more about BYU and make sure that I was safe.
“My mom says I have someone looking out for me everyday. At first, I wasn’t going to be able to make it out to BYU one week, and the next week they would call me to let me know that I would be able to make it up there. To me, it was just another sign that I had to go up there, that I had to make it up there and that my mom had to be up there.”
While his mother played a big role by supporting her son’s decision to come to BYU, O’Neill had already received his own personal confirmation that BYU was the right place for him and had known that for some time. He only needed his family to come to the same conclusion and to give their support.
“I had dreams and little flashes of playing at BYU,” said Chambers. “I never had any dreams or flashes of playing at Purdue or any other school, so it was a sign for me to go there. The only thing was I had some obstacles to go through, and someway and somehow I still made it up there with my mother. To me, that was just another sign as well.”
Chambers talked about what he specifically dreamed about that helped sway him towards signing with the Cougars.
“I would have dreams at night of coming out onto the field with my teammates and Kedron [Paul],” Chambers said. “I would have dreams of us running out there and giving high fives and thinking, ‘Thank God we finally made it out there.’ After that it was time to go to war and play the game that we love.”
Throughout the recruiting process, Chambers never had those experiences before. The only time he ever dreamt of playing football came when he was a little boy.
“The only thing that comes close to that is when I was playing in Pop Warner and could picture myself playing in high school,” said Chambers.
“It is a blessing from God because every time I would get a sign, it was like in my dreams. It would happen the way it happened in my dreams, and it’s not like a déjà vu thing. I believe it was a sign.”
In reflection, Chambers personally feels BYU was placed in his path long ago.
“That’s the weird thing about it,” said Chambers. “Like, I’ve seen little games of [BYU] playing and would think, ‘Man, they’re pretty good.’ The first time I had seen BYU play was a while ago, probably around my freshman year of high school. I noticed they always had good quarterbacks.
“I didn’t know anything about BYU. I didn’t know anything about the LDS or heard anything about that. I didn’t know anything about the honor code or the expectations there. I didn’t know anything about that.”
Chambers was recruited and had many quality offers. As a sophomore, he received a scholarship offer from Florida. Later he would receive scholarship offers from Ole Miss, Wisconsin, South Carolina, Purdue, Texas Tech and others, but Chambers felt signs pointed towards BYU.
“When I was up at Purdue, it was fine and all, but it just didn’t feel right for me. I even went to a football game when I was on a trip there but it still didn’t even feel right for me. Some players were cool and stuff, but it didn’t feel right and I didn’t see myself playing there.
“When I went on my trip to Purdue, I went to their football game against Notre Dame. When I was there I didn’t really feel anything. I was bored. I mean, I was happy to be there, but I wasn’t feeling anything at all. It was kind of strange because Purdue was playing Notre Dame. I was on the field when they were warming up and I was like, ‘This is Notre Dame?’ It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my gosh, this is Notre Dame!’ It was more like, ‘This is Notre Dame?’ It wasn’t that big of a deal for me and I thought it felt more like a regular high school. What I mean is there wasn’t the excitement there.”
But Chambers said that his emotions were quite different whenever BYU was involved.
“Every time I get around Coach Mendenhall or see any highlights about BYU football I get goose bumps,” Chambers said. “I didn’t have that feeling around any other coaches or about any other team. To me it was just another sign that I needed to be there. Sometimes I can’t even sleep at night. I signed that contract with BYU and I feel that’s where I need to be. I can’t really explain it, but that’s how it is. Now it’s time for me to go to work. It’s not a regular thing now and this isn’t something that happens to me every day. It’s time for me to go to work.”