Roots and Roses Lure O’Brien to Wisconsin

One word from Danny O’Brien pretty much summed up his reasons for coming to Wisconsin and that was “home.”  O’Brien made it clear that football and academics played a key role in his decision to come to Wisconsin on Wednesday afternoon when he spoke to the media.  He also made it clear that the winning tradition at Wisconsin was equally enticing.

“There was no denying after taking the Wisconsin visit and talking with my family that Wisconsin was home,” said O’Brien in a conference call.  “It just felt more like the place I wanted to be.”

What some may not realize is that “home” also meant coming back to his Midwestern roots.  O’Brien was born in Minnesota and grew up watching Big Ten football as a kid.  His dad was also a quarterback at Notre Dame and grew up watching the Irish as a kid, something a lot of Midwestern kids can relate to.

It also helps that O’Brien has all of his extended family in Minesota and was able to see some of them during his visit to Wisconsin.  Being around family is clearly important to him.

With that it’s a bit easier to see what really drew him to Wisconsin.  “I’m a leader, one thing I know that was big for me on my visit was fitting in with the players and the atmosphere,” O’Brien said.  “Obviously you have to come in and work hard to earn your respect.  The guys there are hard working guys, no big egos, just guys that are hungry to win and I respect that.”

O’Brien knows the comparisons to Russell Wilson won’t stop anytime soon for him and his reaction and reasons for coming to Wisconsin sound very much like Wilson’s did just about a year ago.  This reaction should sound a bit familiar to you:

“The vibe I got at Wisconsin was special,” said O’Brien.  “It was kind of everything I was looking for going into the process.”

But it’s equally clear that he’s not the same player as Wilson is on the field and expecting him to be that is totally unrealistic.  Additionally, he doesn’t feel much in the way of pressure to follow in his footsteps.

“I’m a completely different player, a different guy, so I don’t compare myself to him,” he said.  “It’s a new year, a new team.  You can see where comparisons can be drawn but I don’t see it as pressure at all.”

He describes his game as being a pass first quarterback, but having a little bit of escapability.  He prides himself on being very prepared and very accurate.  Getting the ball to the playmakers is his ultimate goal.  

In the next few months O’Brien will finish up his degree and walk at graduation, something he has promised his mother, and will then look to get to Wisconsin as soon as possible to delve into the summer program and the playbook to get ready for fall camp.

“This is a program with a lot of success, but this a new year,” said O’Brien.  “You love to have those high expectations and win like that, but I’m not going to try to swallow it all at once.  I’m going to learn the playbook first and from there it’s just Northern Iowa is up first.”

Having grown up in Minnesota and being exposed to the Big Ten at an early age, O’Brien knows a bit more about the Badgers than your typical ACC guy.

“What I know about Wisconsin is they have an unbelievable tradition, great fanbase, and most importantly a great football team, so it’s really impressive.”

His roots and his focus on becoming the best quarterback he can for Wisconsin could well lead the Badgers towards a path that ends in a third straight Rose Bowl birth, at least that’s the goal.  If so all the comparisons to Russell Wilson will start and end with those three magical words - Big Ten Champions.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, as well as Publisher of Big Ten site