O'Brien's efforts were recently rewarded when he was named one of just three area recipients of this year’s National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award. He received his honor at the NFF Chicago Metro Chapter Annual Awards Ceremony, which was held on Feb. 18 in Westchester.
Lincoln-Way East’s Nick Colangelo and Batavia’s Zach Strittmater also were honored at the event.
Chicago Bears radio play-by-play man Jeff Joniak served as Master of Ceremonies at the awards ceremony, which was attended by former college football and National Football League stars and other special guests. O’Brien, Colangelo and Strittmater had the opportunity to be introduced by their high school coaches and give brief acceptance speeches.
The honorees received an engraved trophy, and each also will be the beneficiary of a $6,000 tuition check paid to his college or university.
O’Brien has signed a National Letter-of-Intent to play football at the University of North Dakota, where he plans on majoring in pre-medicine.
O’Brien helped head coach Eric Michaelsen’s Indians to a collective 34-4 record from 2010-12, which included a sterling 17-1 mark in South Suburban Conference-Blue Division play and an 8-3 record in the IHSA playoffs. Lemont won SSC Blue titles each of those seasons, and enjoyed undefeated regular seasons in both 2010 and 2011. The team advanced to the IHSA Class 6A Quarterfinals in 2010, and was an IHSA Class 6A Semifinalist in both 2011 and 2012.
A 6-foot-2, 205-pound linebacker, O’Brien helped limit opponents to 11.1 points per game over three seasons as a starter, as the Indians posted 14 shutouts and allowed fewer than 10 points in half of their 38 games. He racked up 229 tackles (152 solo) in his career, which included 24 tackles for loss. He collected 14 sacks, recovered five fumbles, forced four fumbles, and broke up 14 passes. He twice was named as an all-conference honoree and also served as a team captain.
O’Brien had an outstanding season as a senior, leading the team with a career-high 130 tackles (97 solo) and 13 tackles for loss. He also paced the squad with six sacks, tied for the team lead with three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles, and was third on the team with 10 pass breakups. The Indians were 11-2, shared the SSC Blue title, and advanced to the IHSA Class 6A Semifinals for the second straight season.
A National Honor Society student, O’Brien has posted a perfect 4.0 grade point average through seven semesters. He serves on the school’s Athletic Council, was inducted into its chapter of the Mu Alpha Theta mathematics honors society, and has been part of its Foreign Language Club and varsity baseball program.
NFF Scholar-Athlete Award nominations were reviewed by Chicago Tribune lead college football writer Teddy Greenstein, who worked with selected NFF board members to choose the year’s three honorees. The NFF Chicago Metro Chapter’s 19-member board features six College Football Hall of Fame honorees, including Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, as well as former Chicago Bears Bobby Douglass, Dan Jiggetts, Steve McMichael and Keith Van Horne, among others.
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