Casey O’Brien overcame bone cancer and continued his high school football career as a holder for place kicks at Cretin-Derham Hall.
Thursday, the story got even better for O’Brien’s family, when he announced his commitment to walk on with the Gophers.
“It was an unbelievable journey to get here, but my dream has never changed,” O’Brien wrote on Twitter. “Thank you to coach [P.J.] Fleck and his staff for giving me the opportunity.”
O’Brien was a quarterback on Cretin Derham-Hall’s freshman team four years ago when he started having pain below his left knee. Doctors soon discovered he had osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer.
O’Brien’s father, Dan, was working as the Gophers director of football operations at the time, under Jerry Kill. Casey needed 24 chemo treatments and spent nearly 100 days in the hospital. The whole Gophers program followed his recovery closely, drawing inspiration from it.
Dan O’Brien spent last season as one of coach Tracy Claeys’ nine on-field assistant coaches. Dan turned down an offer from Fleck to remain part of the football program, but Casey’s commitment will keep the O’Brien family intertwined with the Gophers.
TV show in the works
The Gophers are in discussions with a production company about a behind-the-scenes television show featuring Fleck, an athletics department source confirmed.
The deal has not yet been finalized, but the sides have discussed a four-part series that the production company could distribute to the ESPN networks or another station.
Fleck mentioned the TV series in a speech to Gophers corporate sponsors on Wednesday night. He was the subject of two Sports Illustrated profiles while coaching at Western Michigan. His pull also helped lure ESPN’s “College GameDay” to Kalamazoo, Mich., last season.
If this new TV series comes together, it would give Fleck and the Gophers added national exposure, which would be another recruiting boost. With eight commitments for the Class of 2018 as of Thursday afternoon, Minnesota was 14th in the 247Sports national composite rankings.
The Gophers went through another practice with just four healthy offensive linemen Thursday, but Bronson Dovich (unspecified) and Quinn Oseland (knee) appeared closer to returning.