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Penn State Football: Bill O’Brien Returns to His Home Turf in New England

by on March 10, 2013 11:30 AM

Hometown hero Bill O’Brien was back at his old place of employ over the weekend.

The former New England Patriots offensive coordinator returned to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., where he spent five years rising through Bill Belichick’s ranks before taking the Penn State head coaching position in January 2012.

O’Brien – a native of Andover, Mass., located about an hour north of the Pats’ home field – was the keynote speaker at the New England Football Coaches Clinic on Friday night, held at Gillette. The clinic was put together through a partnership with the Patriots and the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association.

O’Brien did a number of interviews while in New England – including ones with the Patriots’ website, with, and with Andy Gresh and Scott Zolak, a popular sports talk duo on WBZ radio in Boston. Links are below.

In an interview with Andy Hart of the team’s official website,, O’Brien said that working under Belichick, the longtime New England head coach, helped ready him for the intense media scrutiny that came with the Penn State job.

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“I was prepared in a lot of ways, just by watching Bill,” O’Brien said. “No one is going to be like Bill. You are just watching how he does things, how he operates, how he prepares for press conferences and things like that. Then my last couple years I did do some media things. Even if it was just a teleconference it still helps you because you have to think about the questions and try to be honest as you can. That’s what I tried to do and that’s what I’ve tried to do at Penn State is be myself and answer the questions as best that I can.”

In his appearance on the “Gresh & Zo” show, O’Brien acknowledged that when the NCAA sanctions were announced, it hit him hard – for about 60 minutes.

“Initially, when they came out it was not a good hour or so right there,” said O’Brien, later adding, “…it was a battle, it was hard. But we’re surrounded by great kids, really good coaches (and) a lot of good people who understood we were starting something new there and something had gone really wrong before we got there. But we were starting new and a lot of people came through for us and it was really cool to watch that.”

In an interview with Brendan Hall of, O’Brien commented on Penn State freshman D.J. Crook, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound walk-on quarterback who played last fall for Worcester Academy in Massachusetts. Crook played scholastically for Barnstable High School on Cape Cod.

“He’ll compete. He’s a big kid, a tough kid,” O’Brien said. “What stood out to me, No. 1 to me, was his intelligence. He’s a very smart kid, an engineer major at Penn State, which is very difficult. He’s doing well. He just got there in January. He’s proved that he can handle the classwork so far. He’s going to compete on the field. I love the way he studies and he’s a great kid.”

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Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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