November 25, 2012 at 12:55 PM
The night before gameday, each senior stood up at the team’s final meeting and spoke.
Some discussed their journey to Penn State. Some talked about sticking together.
But every one expressed gratitude toward Bill O’Brien for his devout leadership throughout circumstances no first-year coach could have ever expected.
“Every one thanked coach O’Brien for him coming here and building the staff that they did,” center Matt Stankiewitch said. “And building the Penn State community up from the shadows, from the ashes and raising it up.”
O’Brien, who discussed himself within the context of the future of the program for the first time after the game, rallied an 0-2 team to finish the season winning eight out of 10 games.
Throughout the season, the coach stressed the importance of each individual game as if it were a bowl game. He handled each new negative development, whether it were players leaving the team or major injuries, as it came and embraced the “next man up” attitude.
And players said they loved the way he handled every bit of it.
“I’ve been saying this all year, that’s the coach of the year,” Michael Mauti said. “No other coach could keep a team focused like this through all this adversity. What can I say, I love the man.”
Not only did O’Brien have a successful run as a first-time head coach, but perhaps most importantly his attitude and new coaching strategy helped keep the majority of the team together prior to the season.
Besides the few players who took their talents elsewhere, fullback Michael Zordich said the entire team accepted the new scheme.
“He is the shepherd,” Zordich said. “He brought in this whole new demeanor and a different style….The guys bought in and we ran with it and we had a lot of fun doing it.”
Yet, O’Brien immediately spoke to the dedication of the team when asked about his end-of-year sentiments as coach.
“I feel great for these kids, especially these seniors,” O’Brien said. “They put in a lot of work. You go all the way back to when I first came here after the Super Bowl and started the 5:30 a.m. workouts, then all of the things that came up during the offseason off the field. You just can't say enough about these kids.”