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Deltha O'Neal
As told to Peter King
December 12, 2005
BENGALS CORNERBACK
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December 12, 2005

Deltha O'neal

BENGALS CORNERBACK

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On graduating from Cal
Pretty challenging place. I'd be in class during football season, and people would be mad if they got an A-minus on a test and I'm just trying to survive. I really enjoyed it. I had to be responsible. It turned me into a man.

On majoring in social welfare
My mom [Sheryl Jessie, who worked at the Boys and Girls club] helped everybody she could. She was raised in New Orleans, and she wants me to go back there when I finish playing to help the neighborhoods. I'd like to help with public housing, building communities, trying to get people on their feet.

On the origin of his first name
I have no idea. I don't know the meaning behind it, but I'm the third Deltha. My grandfather, then my dad, and now me. I've been called a lot of things-- Delta Airlines, Delta Dawn, just plain Delta. But it's Del-tha.

On his idol
Growing up, I had a poster of Deion Sanders taped onto my wall. I watched him, every game I could. Then, in 2003, when I was with the Broncos, he brought me to his kids' football camp in Texas--Prime Time Camp. I got to sit down and talk with him. What an inspiration. I never told him that he was my idol, but I'm sure he saw it in my face the first time we talked. I was in awe.

On being traded from Denver to downtrodden Cincinnati in 2004
Former NFL cornerback Jimmy Spencer is a friend of mine. He played here a few years ago and told me: 'That is one place you do NOT want to play.' He called it 'the Nasty 'Nati.' But I saw [ Bengals] Chad Johnson and Peter Warrick, and they told me, 'Lots changed since [coach] Marvin Lewis got here. Things are looking up.' They were right.

On getting an interception in Cincy's rout of Denver last year
It was a corner pattern by Ashley Lelie, and Jake [Plummer] tried to stick it in there. I just jumped it. Mike [Shanahan, Broncos coach] always hated it when I showboated, so I go running up the field with one finger in the air, celebrating. I hear Marvin screaming, 'What are you doing!! NOOOO!!' I probably could have scored, but I got tackled and tossed the ball at the Denver sideline. The emotion I had was unbelievable.

On his other favorite sport
I love golf. I met my wife [Lisa] when we were at Cal in 1996. She was on the golf team. She's unbelievable. On a good day, I can shoot in the mid-80s. Can I beat her? No chance.

On his pregame routine
I'm quiet before the game. I listen to two kinds of music on my MP3. An hour or so before the game, I'm out there with love music, maybe R. Kelly, to calm my nerves. Closer to game time, I gotta have Tupac. He sets my mind straight. He's been with me since college.

O'NEAL HAS AN NFL-BEST EIGHT INTERCEPTIONS. THE BENGALS HOST THE BROWNS ON SUNDAY.

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