Catching up with Bill O'Brien

FOXBOROUGH – Former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien, who enters his second season as Penn State’s head coach in 2013, was the keynote speaker at the 2013 New England Football Coaches Clinic at Gillette Stadium on Friday.

The clinic was put together through a partnership with the Patriots and the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA), along with MasterSports Inc., a 501 (c) 3 organization.

The following is ESPNBoston.com's Q&A with O’Brien:

Being from this area, how do you view the high school talent here?

“I think the talent around here has always been pretty consistent. There are always, in my opinion, five or six guys that can play at the highest level – Big Ten, SEC, Boston College type football. Then there are a lot of really good players that play in the Ivy League and some I-AA, UNH type schools. I always think it’s been pretty consistent. I think, to me, in this state the coaching has become better. I see a lot of these guys that I personally know and I know they’re great coaches – [Andover’s] E.J. Perry, [Tewksbury’s] Brian Aylward, [Franklin’s] Brad Sidwell. That will help too.”

Do you feel the perception has improved in this area, with Maryland, Virginia etc. coming through here?

“No question. I think there is more schools coming through here because the coaching is better, there is a high level of player here, and it will get better and better as the years go on.”

D.J. Crook from Barnstable, what stood out to you with him, and how do you expect him to compete at Penn State next year?

“He’ll compete. He’s a big kid, a tough kid. What stood out to me, No. 1 to me, was his intelligence. He’s a very smart kid, an engineer major at Penn State, which is very difficult. He’s doing well. He just got there in January. He’s proved that he can handle the classwork so far. He’s going to compete on the field. I love the way he studies and he’s a great kid.”

For you personally, what are some of the life lessons you learned from Coach [Jim] O’Leary [at St. John's Prep]?

“Coach O’Leary was a competitive guy. I learned about competition. I learned the importance of academics; it was a very good school and he put an importance on that, and doing the right thing in the classroom, that’s how you were going to play. It wasn’t just on the practice field. He was a fun guy to play for; he made the game fun.”

As you probably heard, Tom Brady restructured his contract through 2017. What are your thoughts on that?

“I don’t know the details of that, but No. 1, I would tell you that Tom Brady is a team guy. He’s a winner. He just wants to win. So every year that he’s a Patriot, he’s going to do whatever it takes for the team to win. That’s what I was talking about here tonight – he understands that he’s a leader of the team, but he also understands that he’s going to do what he can to help the team.”

He’s said he’d like to play until he’s 40. What in your view needs to happen for that to be accomplished?

“He’s a guy that takes great care of his body. He watches what he eats. He works out. He does everything the right way. It’s not easy to play until you’re 40, but I would never bet against him.”

The Patriots played at a pretty fast tempo this year. What stood out to you about the tempo?

“They have a fantastic coaching staff on offense here. They have Bill, obviously, and Josh McDaniels and Dante Scarnecchia, Ivan Fears, Chad O’Shea, George Godsey – those guys do a great job coaching. I think that they did a great job with the tempo, and Josh did a great job of game-planning that week-in and week-out. I didn’t see every game. And then obviously, you have a quarterback of Tom’s ability that can run it, it was obviously successful. They set a bunch of records. They’ll probably do it against next year.”

Why do you think they were able to execute at such a fast tempo like that?

“Because they have bright guys that are really talented. First and foremost, they are very smart and they think quickly. So they can process information very, very quickly. You have to have players that can do that if you want to play at a high tempo. That’s what they did.”

Wes Welker’s future is a hot topic here. What are your thoughts?

“I don’t have any thoughts on that. I don’t even know the details of all that. I just know that I loved coaching him. I know that he has the respect of this organization from top to bottom, and he’s a great player.”

With Rob Gronkowski, it is said that the public perception of him maybe differs from the reality. What are your thoughts on him?

“I think he’s a fantastic guy. I think he’s a smart football player. I think he’s a young guy that’s enjoying his life. In this day and age of cell phone cameras and all these different things that are out there, last time I checked he was just having some fun. He came to practice every day, he came to play every day and he’s a fantastic player. I think he’s got a bright future, obviously.”