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For Maj. Tom O'Brien, Football Career Comes Full Circle Back To Annapolis

July 19, 2017
Maj. Tom O'Brien is used to pressure. 

He was a three-year starting defensive end for Navy from 1968-1970, he served two tours in the Marines and coached football for 40 years. But O'Brien said he still gets pregame jitters in the broadcast booth. 

O'Brien has worked as a color analyst for ESPN 3 for the past two years, but he will take over as the radio analyst for Navy football in 2017. 

"I got a taste of what it's like to be on the other side of a football game, looking at it from a different viewpoint," O'Brien said on Glenn Clark Radio July 3. "You still got to go on the air, and you still got to perform, and you have to prepare and spend time each week looking at the opponent on tape so that you can speak knowledgably to the fans, because they'll call you out."

O'Brien retired from coaching with a 115-80 career record as a head coach. He compiled a 75-45 record at Boston College from 1997-2006 and a 40-35 mark at N.C. State from 2007-2012. His teams were a combined 8-2 in bowl games. 

Navy, which has played as an independent since its first game in 1879, joined the American Athletic Conference before the 2015 season. Since joining the conference, Navy has gone 14-2 in conference play.

"Navy football has become a brand name across the country, which is really special," O'Brien said. "The kids are special that go there and they'll always be special, but the thing that rises to me now is they have good football players at Navy now."

O'Brien credits head coach Ken Niumatalolo for Navy's success, saying the nine-year head coach keeps his players fresh through the entire season.

"He understands the academy and I think that's the first thing you have to understand -- what those kids go through on a daily basis," O'Brien said. "… The number of hours they take compared to the number of hours required at [any state university], the time commitment that they have doing everything else. It's going to be a little tougher now that you're in a conference, grinding year-in and year-out."

O'Brien said Navy's triple-option offense is a main reason it's been successful in the AAC. 

"It takes you a quarter-and-a-half to catch up to the speed of the game and catch up to the speed of the option," O'Brien said. "The point is the more you play it, the more you have a playbook in place. New staffs come in all the time and they're going to be faced with it."

One coach all too familiar with the triple option is Tom's son, Dan, who is in his fourth year as an assistant and secondary coach with Navy. 

"I think the emotion will come out of me [in the booth] because now I can root for somebody," O'Brien said in regard to the program as a whole. 

Although O'Brien has never tailgated in his life, he commended the work of Navy director of athletics Chet Gladchuck for the festive environment at Navy football games in Annapolis, Md. 

"What Chet Gladchuck has done there with that stadium is remarkable, what they've done with the classes and the tailgates and the things going on prior to the game really is the essence of college football," O'Brien said. "It's as pure as it gets … that's one of the nicest places to play football in the country."

To hear more from Tom O'Brien, listen to the full interview here: 

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Navy Athletics