Human nature is to be resistant to change.
Omar Speights isn’t. Never has been.
Speights spent his childhood up until his junior year of high school in Philadelphia, Penn., nurturing his love for the game of football and working his way to becoming the No.1 ranked player in the state. However, once he realized he could play in college, Speights wasn’t afraid to make a change.
Speights’ older brother was playing as a defensive linemen at Oregon State University prior to Speights’ senior year of high school. Not only was Oregon State across the country, but the culture was entirely different from everything Speights knew.
“It was crazy,” Speights recalled. “I was going through spring and summer ball like I was going to play in Philly, but I ended up moving out there with my brother. It was a whole different atmosphere, and I had to get adjusted to that. In Philly, it’s negative a lot; there aren’t too many friendly people. When I first got out there in Oregon, people in the stores would be smiling at you and making conversation.”
Speights was making business decisions before he was even a legal adult. Thinking about what would best serve him in achieving his dream of making it to the NFL, Speights wanted to graduate from high school early and enroll into college in January, instead of just before fall camp in the summer. No high schools in Philadelphia allowed that, but some schools in Oregon did. He believed the additionalsemester of college football training would pay dividends in the future. Based on his success, it’s safe to say it did.
Speights was named a 2019 Freshman All-American (USA Today, FWAA, The Athletic) at Oregon State, finishing with 73 tackles, which ranked him second on the team and third among all true and redshirt freshmen in the nation. He became a full-time starter in 2021, and he led the team in tackles with 83 in 2022. Also in his senior season, Speights was named First Team All-Pac 12 by the league coaches and Second Team All-Pac 12 by the AP.
After graduating with a degree in business administration in December of 2022, Speights had to make another business decision for his career: play in the most elite conference in college football.
To do that, he would have to adapt to change, again. However, he was ready for the new challenge, and did not even consider anything outside of the SEC. Thus, LSU became his third home.
“I’m really adaptable,” Speights said. “I’ve been all over the country: playing high school ball in Philly and Oregon and then playing at Oregon State and here. I’m really good at adapting on the fly.”
Speights fit in seamlessly at LSU right off the bat, instantly earning the trust and respect of his teammates and emerging as a natural leader. He even received the Iron Tiger award, given to the player that was most consistent in the weight room, along with being simply the strongest, pound-for-pound.
As an athlete, you have to stay present, and take everything one day at a time. However, Speights has been making decisions to benefit his future for years now, so it’s something that is always in the back of his mind. When the sun sets on college football and NFL draft preparation begins, Speights knows what makes him different from the rest.
“My knowledge of the game, knowing what’s going on around me,” Speights said of his best qualities. “My athletic ability, too. I’m a strong guy, and I can run and move in space. I’m not a stiff, in-the-box linebacker. I think I can play anywhere.”
He can play anywhere, just like he proved he can succeed anywhere.
“I was out (in Oregon) with my brother, but that’s my brother; it’s not like I had my parent,” Speights said. “I had to grow up and be responsible for myself. It opened my eyes to some aspects of life that I’ve never seen before, like different ways of thinking.”
Moving across the country by himself prepared Speights for a journey outside of the gridiron as well. Three years ago, he became a father to his daughter, Kenlee.
“She definitely changed me,” Speights said.
Conveniently for Speights, change has never scared him.
He’s actually chased it his whole life.
All Speights has to do is continue to be himself, and the next change that happens to him will be finally realizing the dream that inspired the first change.