January 27, 2020

O’Brien Excited For Transition Into Coaching

Danny O’Brien knew this was the transition he wanted to make. The fact it’s here with the BC Lions adds just a little bit icing on his coaching cake.

Officially retired as a quarterback and named as an offensive assistant on Rick Campbell’s staff earlier this month, the former star QB at Maryland can’t wait to launch his new career in the place where his old one ended.

“I was fortunate to have some offers elsewhere but BC was the best fit for me,” said O”Brien from his offseason home in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“First and foremost, I played for coach Campbell for three years in Ottawa. Secondly, there was the role that was carved out for me and my responsibilities plus the fact this will allow me to grow. Playing is one thing but there is so much stuff when it comes to coaching that you can learn like all of the behind the scenes stuff.

Coach Campbell’s vision of where he thinks I can go with this played a huge role (in my decision). And then yeah, staying in an organization that I loved playing for made the opportunity even better.”

O’Brien dressed in 99 games over six CFL seasons split between the RedBlacks, Eskimos and Lions. A big part of his coaching duties will be working daily with the squad’s quarterbacks. His familiarity with Mike Reilly will no doubt make this big transition a little bit easier.

Also, both he and Reilly played under new offensive coordinator Jordan Maksymic who had served as quarterbacks coach when the trio was together in Edmonton in 2018.

“It’s funny, I sent Mike a text the other day and started it off by saying ‘Hey, it’s Coach O’Brien here.’ So I’ll only answer to ‘Coach’ from him,” O’Brien said with a laugh.

“It will be a little bit different being on the other side. At the same time, we’re all rolling in the same direction. It’s all about winning football games and I’m really excited to add what I can to that room from both an idea and preparation standpoint. Mike is one of, if not the best quarterbacks in the league but I think anything we can do to help him be successful will put us in a good spot as well.”

Danny O’Brien sits next to British Columbia Lions player #13 (QB) Mike Reilly on the players’ bench during the 3rd quarter of CFL game action between the Edmonton Eskimo’s and the British Columbia Lions at the Brick Field located at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton Saturday, October 12, 2019. (CFL PHOTO – Walter Tychnowicz)

His familiarity with both the starter and offensive coordinator is one thing. Being a backup quarterback for as long as he was also served as a nice tutorial as it meant O’Brien’s job description already involved helping with his team’s offensive game plan.

The big difference is now he won’t be one hit away from entering the game just as he did when Reilly went down with his fractured wrist in an unfortunate turn of events in Edmonton last October.

“It’s no secret to those that know me that a big reason I was able to play for six years was that I was good at providing a second set of eyes for the starter,” explained O’Brien.

“I played behind three potential future Hall of Famers in Henry Burris, Trevor (Harris) and Mike. To earn their respect you have to see it the right way and add value to the quarterback room. I think that helped prolong my career in general. I think that kind of bridges the gap between me playing and coaching. It will be pretty similar.”

He is perhaps a classic example of just how small the football world is. It was barely ten years ago when O’Brien the Freshman passed for 417 yards and four touchdowns to Torrey Smith to help Maryland stun Russell Wilson and North Carolina State.

The victory denied Wilson and company a trip to the ACC title game. It was also the first 400-yard passing game for any Maryland quarterback since current Eskimos head coach Scott Milanovich back in 1993. Adding yet another interesting layer to the story was the fact O’Brien ended up transferring to Wisconsin right after Wilson left there for the NFL in 2012.

“I think it turned out alright for Russell in the end,” chuckled O’Brien.

“He’s a great guy. With our overlap at Wisconsin, I saw him there a couple of times but would never bring up that win over NC State. I believe that would have been their first ACC Championship appearance ever. We were definitely spoilers in that one.”

Small world indeed. It’s also a bittersweet time for O’Brien as he leaves aside his regular offseason job of training high school kids in the gym. He is slated to arrive back at the Surrey facility from North Carolina next week to get a head start before the entire staff is under one roof together for the first time in early March. With Campbell leading the charge, the ex-QB expects everyone to get off on the right foot.

“He’s a players’ coach and he lets guys be themselves. In this business, you’re going to get a lot of different personalities and different backgrounds. I was always impressed at how he’s always been able to mold that together to achieve the common goal.”

Matt Baker: