This story has been updated.
Former U.S. Marine Brandon O’Brien had hopes of a potential NFL career, but various media outlets have been reporting that the Boston Marathon bombing changed his plans. These accounts alleged that, following the terror attack, O’Brien, 30, decided that, rather than playing football, he would re-enlist in the military.
There’s only one problem: O’Brien claims that his decision was made prior to the attack.
As The Washington Times notes, the former soldier was a record-setting player at Montana State Northern University after spending four years of his life serving in the Marines. While O’Brien was from a small college and, thus, would have had to work harder to carve out an NFL spot, his impressive numbers might have convinced a team to give him a shot.
But that’s all history now. His decision to serve his country is trumping his intensely-personal aspirations, however, contrary to previous reports, this has nothing to do with the Boston Marathon. Instead, he claims he decided weeks ago that re-enlisting would be the right thing to do.
NBC Sports reports:
“Those reports are absolutely false,” O’Brien told BeyondSportsNetwork.com. “First off, me deciding to go back into the military has nothing to do with the Boston bombings and, furthermore, I have not yet reenlisted in the Marines.”
Instead, O’Brien says he decided two weeks ago, after returning home from an intensive training program with some other former college players who are hoping to get drafted by the NFL next week, that pro football wasn’t in the cards for him. O’Brien decided then that returning to the military is the right path for him.
“I did some soul searching and realized that I was put here to help people and not play professional football. The military is a passion of mine and it is something I hold close to my heart and love to be a part of,” O’Brien said.
It must be noted that O’Brien worked diligently and overcame many obstacles to find himself finally in a place where he might be able to capture the attention of some coaches and teams. Regardless of his motivation for re-joining, his past story is noteworthy. Yahoo! Sports provides a recap of his struggles:
O’Brien’s life is a story in overcoming adversity. He was a walk-on at Kentucky in 2000, but family problems forced him to drop out of school to go back home to Florida to work and support his loved ones. He then enlisted in the military, serving two terms over four years in Iraq. While there, he earned the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for saving the lives of two fellow Marines who’d been swept out to sea while swimming.
He returned home in 2010, still burning to play football, only to find his NCAA eligibility had expired. So he enrolled in the NAIA’s Montana State Northern University, and proceeded to match or set several school records. He set marks for most touchdowns in a game with 3, most receiving yards in a game with 226, and most receiving touchdowns in a season with 11.
After three years in Havre, Montana, he set his eyes on the NFL draft. He trained at the Athletes Performance Institute in Frisco, Texas, where he reportedly ran a 4.56 40. It’s not world-class speed, but O’Brien had the physical assets, and obviously the mindset, to catch the interest of the NFL.
All that aside, despite his impressive abilities on the field, O’Brien is deciding that he, once again, has a greater calling. In an interview with NFL.com, his agent, Brad Berkowitz, explained the player’s change-of-heart.
“He said watching what happened yesterday left him with a big hole in his heart and told me he wants to ensure that this never happens again to anybody, anywhere,” Berkowitz said earlier this week. “The kid is a real hero.”
This quote, though, apparently isn’t meant to be read as though the player cited the bombings as the central catalyst for his decision. As NBC Sports notes, it’s admirable that he wanted to set the record straight.
Read more about O’Brien’s story here.
(H/T: Washington Times)
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