Danny O'Brien held a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon during which he discussed his decision to transfer to Wisconsin. The former Maryland quarterback who graduated in three years will have two seasons of eligibility remaining with his new team.
Some nuggets from Wisconsin's newest quarterback:
Why Wisconsin? "The vibe I got at Wisconsin was special," O'Brien said. "Being with the players on the team, the coaching staff, the city, the campus was great. It was everything I was looking for." He later added: "It was the complete package: the style of offense, the coaches I connected with, the players I connected with, it's a great area."
O'Brien said the decision ultimately came down to Wisconsin and Penn State, a school he visited for a second time on Monday. After talking with his high school coach, he took a second visit to Penn State because he hadn't seen the Nittany Lions practice. Although he enjoyed it and connected well with new PSU coach Bill O'Brien, he still felt stronger about Wisconsin, calling it a "close" decision. "It was a pretty similar situation in a lot of respects," he said. "Great people, great players, I felt good there. But there was no denying after I took the Wisconsin visit … that Wisconsin was home." Wisconsin, by the way, travels to Penn State on Nov. 24.
O'Brien handled the Russell Wilson questions well, acknowledging that comparisons will inevitably be made but pointing out that he's a different player. "Our paths are kind of similar coming from the ACC to Wisconsin specifically, but it's a new year," he said. "The 2012 season has yet to be written. I'm a completely different player and a different guy, so I don't compare myself to him. … I don't see it as pressure at all." O'Brien hasn't spoken to Wilson about Wisconsin but followed Wilson's 2011 season in Madison after facing him in the ACC. "The fact he showed it was possible was big," O'Brien said.
O'Brien is scheduled to graduate from Maryland in mid-May, after which he wants to get to Madison as soon as possible. He has talked to offensive coordinator Matt Canada about getting a copy of Wisconsin's playbook as soon as NCAA rules allow him to.
O'Brien connected with Canada during his visit and views Wisconsin's offense as similar to the system he played in at Maryland in 2010, when he earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors. O'Brien called himself a "pass-first quarterback." He also ate lunch with Wisconsin's offensive linemen during his visit and spent some time with Montee Ball and the running backs. He didn't meet with the quarterbacks. Not surprisingly, the O-line stood out during the practice he watched. "You hear how big those guys are, but until you see them practice, it does it no justice," he said.
Although O'Brien played high school football in North Carolina, he has Midwest roots. He was born in St. Paul, Minn., and his entire extended family is in the Twin Cities area. Several family members joined him in Madison during his visit. "When I grew up, it was all Big Ten football," he said. "My dad went to Notre Dame, so it was Big Ten and Notre Dame. I saw a lot of Wisconsin football growing up. And with Russell going to Wisconsin last year, they were always on TV."
O'Brien feels rejuvenated and knows he'll need to prove himself again with his new team. Asked how he'd establish himself as a leader, he said, "My plan is to go in there and not say a whole lot about what I'm going to do," he said. "I'll try to be the hardest worker out there, and there are a lot of hard workers on that team. It's the best way to earn respect." Unlike most graduate transfers, O'Brien gets to spend two years at his new school. "Being there for two years, it'll settle in eventually and feel like a new home. It'll be great to be there for that long."
O'Brien said his left (non-throwing) arm is 100 percent after he broke it in the Notre Dame game last year. The injury didn't require surgery. "It set perfectly," he said. "I'm stronger than ever now."