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Penn State Football: O'Brien Opens Up During HBO Interview

by on May 22, 2013 1:00 AM

Normally guarded, Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien opened up ever so slightly about his first year at Penn State and his youngest son Jack during an appearance on HBO's Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.

O'Brien spoke to reporter Andrea Kremer during a 14 minute segment.

"There's different things that people use to calm themselves down,'' Bill O'Brien said. "What I use to calm myself down is, I think about Jack. When I think about Jack, I always think about his smile, his face. I think about when you wake him up in the morning, it's like the greatest thing in the world.''

Jack O'Brien is a special needs child. When he was one-year-old, Jack was diagnosed with Lissencephaly, a rare, debilitating, and life-threatening brain disorder.

O'Brien also spoke of the time he and his wife Colleen learned of their son's condition.

"Yeah, that was a tough day,'' O'Brien said. "You feel terrible, you feel guilty. At the same time, we understood that this is what it is and we're going to do the best job we can for Jack.''

"Oh, absolutely,'' Colleen O'Brien said when speaking about the fact that Jack could die as a result of a seizure. "And that's our big fear, I think. You know, is this the one that's not going to stop? He holds his breath during the seizure and I'm always waiting for that exhale to know that he's starting to breathe again.''

"The hardest part is there's nothing you can do. I just wait, make sure he's safe, hold his head if he's sitting up, or if he's laying down I sort of try to cradle him until it stops," she said.

Later in the episode O'Brien recalled the birth of his other son, Michael, who is perfectly healthy.

"I'll never forget that as long as I live, when we had Michael,'' Bill O'Brien said. "Because we called our parents and I'll never forget, you could just hear the tears streaming down their faces. Like, that they were so excited that we had a healthy baby boy. It gets me choked up.''

O'Brien touched on topics such as his relationship with former head coach Joe Paterno and his first year in State College as well.

"I spoke with Coach Paterno over the phone," O'Brien said. "He told me to keep graduating players and playing football at a high level. I promised him that I would do that."

"He also got a kick out of the fact that we were both Brown guys." O'Brien said alluding to his and Paterno's alma mater.

"There were coaches waiting outside of classrooms and just trying to talk to guys any chance that they can get.'' O'Brien said, talking about schools taking advantage of the open transfer rule.

"Once those players chose to leave, we said, 'OK, they're gone, next guy is up. We're not going to sit here and talk about these guys … that are at Southern Cal and Oklahoma and Texas and Cal and all these other places.' Good, go play there. We're coaching the guys that are here.''

 The full O'Brien feature re-airs Thursday at 6:30 pm on HBO and Friday at 6 am and 8:30 pm on HBO2. The feature also included thoughts from Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner as well as former Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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