UNIVERSITY PARK — Bill OBrien was a virtual unknown in the college football realm when Penn State plucked him from the New England Patriots and tabbed him to lead its football program through its darkest period.
Over the past two years, OBrien who was once simply that guy who hollered at Tom Brady has become one of the most celebrated new residents in Centre County.
Not only did OBrien find success in his two years on the field at Penn State in which his teams combined to go 15-9 in the wake of unprecedented NCAA sanctions, he was able to fit in off it, too. OBrien, his wife Colleen and their two sons became fixtures in the community. They could be seen courtside inside Rec Hall just a few weeks ago when the mens basketball team returned to the old venue. The OBriens were also on hand for games at the Bryce Jordan Center and for wrestling duals at Rec Hall.
OBrien made routine stops to Nittanyville the tent city that forms outside of Beaver Stadium before home games where students camp out to get the best seats. His radio shows and public appearances were alway well-attended. His outreach missions to introduce himself and help re-brand Penn State football over the 30-stop Coaches Caravan tours were well-received.
In the end, he was in high demand and his former players had nothing but high praise for OBrien, who is expected to sign a five-year contract to coach the Houston Texans Thursday.
The realization began to set in for Penn State players when reports that OBrien had reached an agreement to become Houstons next head coach surfaced Tuesday night.
(sic)Its weird that I am one of the few penn state football players that will have 4 head coaches #mindblown #ohwell its the business #NFL, junior receiver Matt Zanellato tweeted.
OBrien never denied his ultimate aspiration was to one day coach an NFL team. While OBrien hasnt returned calls or messages left for him for more than a week, he admitted that the NFL was the pinnacle of coaching shortly after flirting with NFL teams last winter.
Most of his players didnt take long to come to that realization. Most wished him luck.
Congratulations to Coach Bill OBrien, senior team co-captain John Urschel tweeted. Couldnt be happier for him and his family.
Former center Matt Staniewitch, who played one season for OBrien, called OBriens two years unbelievable.
It wasnt just players who joined in the congratulations.
Good Luck Bill OBrien. Thank you for two good years, State Sen. Jake Corman tweeted.
The former Penn State coach also had his detractors. Message-board posters took offense to the presumed notion that OBrien had guaranteed players in the 2013 recruiting class that hed stay around for at least the duration of their careers. OBriens silence so far has also irked a lot of Penn State fans who have taken to social media to call OBrien a fraud or liar.
None of those sentiments came from players who suited up for OBrien, however.
Coach OB following his dreams just like I followed mine. Cant blame him for that, safety Jesse Della Valle tweeted.