MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The four-time cancer survivor who made his Gopher football debut Saturday talked about his big moment in front of TV cameras for the first time Wednesday.
“It has been pretty crazy the last 72 hours,” University of Minnesota sophomore Casey O’Brien said.
It was his first play in a college football game, followed by a long embrace with coach P.J. Fleck. It was a moment the Cretin-Derham Hall High School graduate, who was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer when he was 13, had dreamed about.
“It’s starting to sink in a little bit more but it still feels pretty surreal,” O’Brien said.
Since Saturday’s game, O’Brien was named Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week and made national headlines, but the attention doesn’t seem to have gone to his head.
A look at his arm will tell you he doesn’t forget what he’s been through. They’re bracelets given to him from cancer patients, that he still visits in the pediatric ward where he got treatment.
“I just started wearing them for different kids I had met in the hospital,” he said. “Since my story has gotten out there I’ve had people from all over the country giving me bracelets.”
When he was first diagnosed in high school, doctors told the freshman quarterback he couldn’t run, so he changed positions to be a holder. When chemotherapy kept him out of the game, he took up golf in the meantime.
When the Gophers made him a backup on the football team, he never gave up practicing for his moment. He doesn’t want any other cancer victim giving up.
“If I can then you can, so somebody just had to be the first,” he said.
O’Brien went three-for-three for his holds in the game for extra points, helping the Gophers to a 42-7 win over Rutgers.
His cancer has been in remission for over a year.