Football is synonymous with the O’Brien family, and Conor O’Brien has been around the gridiron all of his life.
“As soon as I could walk, my dad got a football in my hands, and [he would play] with me and my brother out in the yard,” says O’Brien. “Ever since then, it’s been a passion and love of mine.”
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The JSerra Catholic High School senior plays under the Lions varsity football head coach, Jim Hartigan, and the ties between Hartigan, the Trinity League and the O’Brien family run deep. O’Brien’s father played football at Mater Dei High School when Hartigan was the Monarchs’ linebackers coach, and his uncle played for Santa Margarita Catholic High School when Hartigan coached there.
Hartigan now coaches O’Brien, along with his younger brother Riley, and the two-way starter for JSerra is impressive both on and off the field.
“Conor is a tough kid with a relentless passion to be the best at whatever he does,” says Hartigan. “He’s respectful, compassionate and extremely hardworking. And his parents have done a magnificent job instilling in him and his brother the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As both a safety and receiver for the Lions, lining up on both sides of the ball suits the 18-year-old just fine.
“I love getting the ball in my hands. I love tackling and I love hitting,” says O’Brien.
While JSerra’s football team may often be perceived as the league’s underdog, O’Brien enjoys the role and views it as a challenge to prove their opponents wrong each week. He admits the commitment to the sport is demanding, but the life lessons learned have been worth the hard days.
“Football has taught me perseverance. It has been a tough three years,” says O’Brien. “It teaches me that every day it’s going to be hard, but it’s going to make me a better person.”
To assist in keeping prepared for the rigors of the football season, O’Brien has turned to the track, becoming JSerra’s first official varsity 110-meter high hurdler, an experience that O’Brien says has been both surprising and beneficial.
His commitment to his campus extends beyond athletics, as O’Brien serves on Link Crew, a mentorship program that pairs upperclassmen with incoming freshmen. Additionally, O’Brien was selected to be a member of Caritas Christi, a faith-based leadership group that represents the school within their community.
The San Clemente resident has his eyes on playing football in college, possibly at the United States Naval Academy, a goal that he’s striving for with the support of his parents.
“They are the backbone to our family. They push us in every way—academically, athletically,” says O’Brien of his mom and dad. “And [my dad], he’s our biggest critic and our biggest fan. Football is our life, and he gets us through all the hardships. He’s really my motivation.”