Sports Person of the Week
O’Brien Goes All-SCC for the Grizzlies
Senior captain Jack O’Brien earned All-SCC honors for the Guilford football team after coming back from an injury that sidelined him early in the season. (Photo courtesy of Jack O’Brien)
When Jack O’Brien broke his collarbone two weeks before the Guilford football team started its season, the senior captain was heartbroken. The first question that rushed through Jack’s mind was whether he would he be able to play football at all after missing his entire junior year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I broke it in a preseason scrimmage two weeks before the first game, coming down catching a ball,” says Jack. “It was very mentally challenging at first after putting in so much work in the offseason for the first game. Then finding out I couldn’t play for several weeks was very tough.”
Jack wound up missing the first three games of the season, but then got back on the field and made a big impact for the Grizzlies upon returning. Jack finished the year with 26 catches for 400 receiving yards and 8 total touchdowns, two of which he scored against East Lyme in his first game back in action. The senior also made the All-SCC Tier 3 Team for his play as a defensive back.
“I knew I had to do my part as a captain of the team and still be a leader, so I always brought energy to the team, regardless if I was padded up with them or not,” Jack says. “The recovery process was not bad. At times it was tough mentally, but I followed doctor’s orders very responsibly and was blessed to be back on the field as early as I was.”
Jack helped Guilford finish with a record of 6-4 after the Grizzlies had lost their first two games of the year. Head Coach Anthony Salvati believes that Guilford could have been a playoff team had Jack played the entire campaign. Salvati credits Jack for his persistence to return to the field and his performance once he got back out there.
“Jack is an exceptional leader on and off the field,” says Salvati. “His presence was clearly missed when he missed the first [three] games of the season. The offensive production became far more balanced once he returned, as well as more explosive. Jack also gave us the versatility on defense to bring pressure from different areas, while he was able to cover receivers.”
Jack’s relationship with Coach Salvati has strengthened during his tenure in the program. Jack says that Salvati always puts the team before himself, and he admires his coach’s dedication to the game.
“He’s so supportive and is so committed to making the whole team and I better players and young men,” Jack says of Salvati. “He cares about everything we do. He always emphasizes being good students and people in the community. I know he will do anything for me, and I can say the same.”
In addition to having a stellar season on the gridiron, Jack has also been succeeding academically at Guilford, posting a 3.5 grade-point average during the football season. Now, Jack’s sights are set on attending prep school next fall in order to have a better opportunity to get recruited by top colleges for football.
“Next year, I will be playing at a post-grad prep school. I have yet to decide where, but I have already talked to a handful of schools,” says Jack. “My plan after prep school is to play at the highest level I possibly can, while receiving a good education.”
Along with playing football, Jack also competed for the Guilford boys’ basketball team in his sophomore year. However, once he became a junior, Jack decided to dedicate himself to football exclusively, and that decision paid dividends this year.
“I spend a lot of time working on my route running and my catching,” Jack says. “I stopped playing basketball after my sophomore year to focus on football, and I feel like that really paid off.”