Hugh O’Neill is giving his mom something unprecedented this Mother’s Day: his room back.
The Edmonton-grown U of A Golden Bears kicker will be watching Sunday’s CFL Canadian draft (10:30 a.m., TSN) from his parents’ home, where he has lived while working his way through minor football and four years of university.
But on Sunday, he is expected to be among the top-10 Canadian-born university players to turn pro. Considering the Edmonton Eskimos are chock full with four kickers/punters coming to camp, it’s likely O’Neill will find himself playing somewhere else for the first time in his life.
“I could be moving in a month or so. Packing up and heading out,” said O’Neill, 21, who attended Ross Sheppard high school. “So I haven’t gone too far yet.”
The six-foot-two, 185-pounder saw his value increase from 11th place on the CFL Scouting Bureau’s list, to the eighth spot after scoring 58 points this season. He made good on 13 of 18 field goals for 72.2%, with a longest test of 42 yards.
“I’m just kind of anxious to find out what’s going to be going on,” O’Neill said. “It’s one of those things you try to think about all the different possibilities, so I’m looking forward to finding out where I’m going.”
The three-time CIS All-Canadian and four-time Canada West all-star is hovering on the bubble between being a first-round selection and having to wait until Round 2. But O’Neill said he is more interested in what town he lands in as opposed to what round.
“I figure either round you end up, you’re going to get a chance to come into camp and compete for a position and try to get on the roster,” he said. “Either way, it’s pretty exciting.
“I’m just trying to avoid too much speculation and then go with whatever’s thrown my way and be ready to compete.”
Before Calgary Stampeders kicker Rob Maver made a splash at last year’s E-camp before being taken fifth overall, kickers have gone along pretty much unnoticed during the build-up for recent drafts.
“It’s definitely kind of cool. I think it gives teams a little more confidence and a little bit of breathing room taking kickers higher up in the draft, seeing that Rob Maver has been pretty successful in Calgary,” O’Neill said. “The kicking position is definitely unique, but it’s definitely a very important one for each team, especially with roster spots and the whole Canadian-American imports situation.”
With some teams traditionally using one kicker for punting, place-kicking and kickoff duties, O’Neill said he’s comfortable running the gamut or specializing wherever he’s needed.
“I’d just be happy to fill whatever role teams are looking for,” said O’Neill, who has become used to pulling double duty with the Bears. “I think I’m capable of doing both but happy to do either/or depending on what teams need in certain situations just to kind of get my foot in the door.”
“Either way, I’ll be able to work on my skills and refine them even more as I move up to the next level,” he said.
As for the rest of the O’Neill clan, he said his parents are every bit as anxious to find out what happens.
“Maybe even more than me,” said O’Neill. “I’m going to be hanging out with my family on draft day, and friends. Just kind of keeping it low key to just sort of hang out and have a good time, and see what happens.”