Casey O’Brien, the holder for the Minnesota Golden Gophers, won the Big Ten Special Teams Player of the Week this week. O’Brien held the ball for Minnesota in the fourth quarter of their game against Rutgers, helping secure three successful extra point attempts. He’s also a four-time cancer survivor, and he’s only twenty years old.
Back when O’Brien was a thirteen and a freshman in high school, he was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer. Over the next several years, he underwent left knee replacement, several lung surgeries, and extensive chemotherapy, as the cancer receded and reappeared in his lungs three times after the initial diagnosis. He’s currently cancer free and has been for almost two years.
O’Brien spoke about his journey at the 2019 Big Ten Media days:
O’Brien really isn’t supposed to be playing football, even if he’s cancer free. He’s got metal in his leg from his knee replacement, which could be disastrous if he’s hit. He had to wear a special padded shirt during practice in 2018, because he had a port in his chest to facilitate his ongoing cancer treatment—treatment he received every week. He took chemo pills before every practice, never missing a practice, and during high school held extra points for the team even as he underwent chemotherapy.
Head Coach P.J. Fleck, noted guy I roll my eyes at but who people in the know say is actually a good dude, was the only coach to offer O’Brien a walk-on chance, and Minnesota was the only program to medically clear him to play. Fleck also, apparently, gives really good hugs:
"That's what college football's all about."— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) October 19, 2019
Four-time cancer survivor Casey O'Brien just got his first hold for @GopherFootball.
It was perfect, and so was everyone's reaction. pic.twitter.com/mnaGvgsErF
I reached out to Minnesota to ask if O’Brien has anything he wants to add that goes beyond the interview he’s given and the stories that have been written about him and the past week of his life. I also asked him if there’s any charity or organization or group that was important or helpful, or that he supports and wants to get some attention. Understandably, he’s been deluged with similar-ish requests, so Minnesota is putting on a press conference for him today and they’re “shutting down” the story after that.
If you know of a great charity or group or organization that works with cancer patients, helps with treatment, signs people up to be possible bone marrow or other type of donors, please post it in the comments! And if you have $5, think about donating it.
Offensive Player of the Week: David Bell
Wide Receiver - Purdue Boilermakers at Iowa Hawkeyes
13 receptions, 197 yards, 1 TD
Purdue had only 360 yards of offense against Iowa on Saturday, but David Bell had over half of those himself. Bell accounted for nearly half of the completions thrown by QB Jack Plummer, and it seems that Bell is performing QUITE nicely as the new Rondale Moore. I’m sure the rest of the conference can’t wait until both those guys are on the field at the same time. Super easy to shut them both down, right? In five career games, Bell has recorded more than 100 yards receiving in three of them and has averaged more than 14 yards per catch in four of them. Seems pretty good.
Honorable Mention - Offensive Player of the Week: Week 8
Stevie Scott III - RB - Indiana Hoosiers
18 carries for 108 yards and 2 TDs. Toss 5 catches for 36 yards on top of that, and you get the guy who showed flashes of greatness in 2018. Scott seems to be back to the big performances of last year, and he (along with surprisingly good QB play) has the Hoosiers one game from bowl eligibility with five games left to play.
KJ Hamler - WR - Penn State Nittany Lions
Just 6 receptions but 108 yards and 2 TDs. Penn State only threw for 182 yards, and Hamler caught 108 of them. Big week for star receivers doing a lot of work. He also averaged 32.5 yards on his two kick returns
Javon Leake - RB - Maryland Terrapins
23 carries, 158 yards, and 2 TDs. And of course he had another loooong run (60 yards), which I assume resulted in one of his TDs although I clearly didn’t watch the game.
Defensive Player of the Week: Antoine Winfield, Jr.
Defensive Back - Minnesota Golden Gophers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
3 tackles, 2 interceptions, 1 TD
Score a defensive touchdown, win an award. Interceptions are great, and Antoine Winfield, Jr. had two of them against Rutgers. Sure, as WhiteSpeedReceiver says, “But it’s Rutgers,” to which I respond, “But touchdown!” Plus, Minnesota is about to enter a 2-3 stretch to end its season, so it seems charitable to give Winfield the award.
Honorable Mention Defensive Players of the Week: Week 8
Riley Moss - DB - Iowa Hawkeyes
2 tackles, 1 pass defended, 1 interception. Didn’t rack up huge stats, but generally did good pass defense things against a Michigan team that has REALLY good receivers but, for some reason, hasn’t figured out that throwing at them a bunch is a good plan.
Chris Orr - LB - Wisconsin Badgers
9 tackles, 3 TFL, 3 sacks. Orr keeps putting up crazy sack numbers (8 so far this year on just 38 tackles), and it certainly is not remotely his fault that the Badgers lost this past weekend. Can’t wait to watch him get to Fields 4-5 times this Saturday only to have Fields slip out of the sack and run for a first down.
Dele Harding - LB - Illinois Fighting Illini
16 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 fumble recovery. Blah blah blah Illinois defensive player had a good game against Wisconsin blah blah. We’re just gonna gloss over this one.
Special Teams Player of the Week: Casey O’Brien
Holder - Minnesota Golden Gophers at Rutgers Scarlet Knights
3 holds, 3 converted extra points
Go back to the top and read the intro again.
Honorable Mention Special Teams Players of the Week: Week 8
Nobody! O’Brien gets the category all to himself
OTE’s Offensive Play of the Week: Week 8
OTE’s Defensive Play of the Week: Week 8
The moment I knew the game was over.
Rondale’s Corner Tanner Time
15/28, 245 yds, 2 TDs. No turnovers! 8.8 yards per attempt! Handed the ball off like he was Justin Fields at Georgia in garbage time!
Jammin’ with Jonathan
28 carries, 132, 1 TD. One turnover that turned out to hurt pretty bad :(
How are you coping?
This poll is closed
Telling myself it’s okay because Notre Dame lost
Telling myself it’s okay because Michigan is still not that good