MADISON, Wis. — The Danny O’Brien Story was a tale so obvious merely 12 months ago, there almost wasn’t a need to craft a story.
He was a ferociously studious sophomore coming off an ACC rookie of the year season. Maryland had finally found a charismatic, face-of-the-program quarterback.
At the time, it looked like a perfect script. Six months later it was discarded in a decision tinged with inevitability, though O’Brien wouldn’t have seen his transfer to Wisconsin coming as he prepared for the Terrapins’ 2011 season opener.
“I would have said they were crazy,” O’Brien said recently. “Just with the expectations we had going into last year and everything, which we embraced the expectation, but certainly no one saw what happened last year coming.”
What happened was a woeful 2-10 season in coach Randy Edsall’s first season, and O’Brien’s departure as part of an exodus of players amplified scrutiny of the coach.
It wasn’t a fun stretch for O’Brien, either. The player who had tossed 22 touchdowns and just eight interceptions in 2010 struggled after a stirring season opener. He was benched for a game and split time with C.J. Brown in others.
By the time he left a blowout loss to Notre Dame at FedEx Field with a broken left arm, he had seven touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and a two-week head start on his offseason.
“It was tough,” O’Brien said. “You have to really bunker down and get with the people that are tightest with you. The thing about college football is if you struggle, it’s in front of the whole country. It wasn’t easy. I’d be lying if I said it was easy. But at the same time, I knew kind of the bigger picture of what was going on. I tried to stay positive with the guys because it was a rough time.”
O’Brien tugs at his shoulder pads, hands clasped just beneath his chin. The capacity for self-reflection remains vibrant. It’s all so familiar, especially for those who saw O’Brien in his finest moments at Maryland.
Except it’s something of an echo. The sport’s the same. The mannerisms are the same. But O’Brien’s story has taken an unmistakable turn.
“Certainly, I wouldn’t trade my time at Maryland, including last year, for anything,” O’Brien said. “I’m proud to graduate from there and keep up with all the guys. But being here has been a clean slate. It’s kind of weird being a freshman all over again, coming in and proving yourself. But I think it’s been good for me because this place is very competitive and brings out the best.”
Smelling the Roses?
On a cool Friday morning, O’Brien zipped through a crisp practice on the turf inside cavernous Camp Randall Stadium.
If the plethora of seat backs and cushions installed on bleachers more than a fortnight before the season isn’t enough of a hint (let’s just say Bucky’s Locker Room is doing good business), the long list of Wisconsin’s Big Ten titles and Rose Bowl appearances affixed across the top of the stadium cements a significant point.
O’Brien isn’t at Maryland anymore, and he’s traded up the college football food chain for the second act of his career.View Entire Story
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Patrick Stevens has covered Maryland and other Mid-Atlantic college sports for more than a decade. You can reach him at email@example.com.
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