Innovator. Motivator. Disciplinarian. All have been used to describe Tom O'Brien.
Add program rebuilder to the list. In six years as the Gregory P. Barber and Family Head Football Coach at Boston College, O'Brien has led the program to new heights by instilling his values of integrity, honesty and hard work.
The list of Tom O'Brien's accomplishments at Boston College just keeps growing. He has compiled an overall record of 40-31 and has led the Eagles to a bowl game for an unprecedented fourth straight year, winning the past three in a row. The 2002 Eagles finished with a 9-4 record, the third time in the last four years the Eagles have won eight or more games. BC has won 32 games over the last four years, tying the 1981-84 Eagles for the most wins in a four-year period in the past 50 years of BC football.
O'Brien has now coached a running back who has rushed for 1,000+ yard five seasons in a row (Mike Cloud, 1998; Cedric Washington, 1999; William Green, 2000 and 2001; and Derrick Knight, 2002). And off the field, his influence is evident as well. Boston College's football graduation rate is among the highest in the nation.
O'Brien became BC's 32nd head football coach on Dec. 13, 1996, bringing his hard working, dedicated and disciplined brand of football to the Heights at a time when it was sorely needed. BC was reeling from a gambling scandal that rocked the program and was coming off two straight losing seasons. O'Brien's first two Eagles teams responded with 4-7 records that included wins over Georgia Tech and West Virginia. He coached Mike Cloud to the BC all-time rushing record and first-team All-America honors. Cloud was a second-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs while center Damien Woody was selected in the first round by the New England Patriots and offensive guard Doug Brzezinski was picked in the third round by the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 1999, three years of hard work paid off for O'Brien, his staff and players as they engineered the third-best turnaround in Division I college football. Led by Minnesota Vikings' first-round draft pick and All-American Chris Hovan, the Eagles registered impressive back-to-back-to-back wins over Syracuse, West Virginia and Notre Dame to finish the regular season with an 8-3 record, a top 25 national ranking and a trip to the Insight.com Bowl - BC's first bowl appearance since 1994.
The 2000 Eagles posted a record of 7-5, including an impressive 31-17 win over Arizona State in the Aloha Bowl. A total of seven players earned All-BIG EAST honors and offensive guard Paul Zukauskas earned first-team All-America honors. He was later chosen in the seventh round of the NFL draft by the Cleveland Browns.
The 2001 season was a satisfying one for O'Brien as the Eagles finished 8-4 and ranked in the top 25 in both major polls, capped by a 20-16 win over SEC powerhouse Georgia in the Music City Bowl. A 21-17 victory over Notre Dame gave the Eagles two wins in three years against their archrivals. BC gave eventual national champion Miami by far its biggest scare of the entire season at Alumni Stadium as the Hurricanes were able to pull out a victory only in the final seconds. Running back William Green rushed for 1,559 yards and was the second-leading rusher in the country and a consensus first-team All-America pick. Green (16th, Cleveland) and offensive tackle Marc Colombo (29th, Chicago) were selected in the first round of the NFL draft, the first time two BC players were picked in the first round.
Before coming to BC, O'Brien was the coordinator of the record-setting University of Virginia offense for six seasons and a member of the highly regarded Cavaliers' football staff since 1982. Virginia was consistently ranked among the top offensive teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference in recent years.
A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, O'Brien, 52, played at St. Xavier High School in that city. In 1987, he was inducted into the St. Xavier Athletic Hall of Fame - one of the youngest graduates ever selected to join fellow alumni such as baseball hall-of-famer Jim Bunning and Notre Dame All-America quarterback George Ratterman in the school's place of honor. He later enjoyed a fine collegiate career at Navy, where he was a three-year starter at defensive end for the Midshipmen from 1968-70.
Following his graduation from the Naval Academy in 1971, O'Brien was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marines. He served as an assistant coach for Navy's plebe (freshman) team for one season before being assigned to the Quantico Marine Base in Virginia, where he played on the last Quantico football team. He later served tours of duty in California and Japan. He attained the rank of major in the Marine Corps Reserve.
When his active duty ended, O'Brien joined the football staff at Navy, where he coached the team's tackles and tight ends for seven years (1975-81). He was also the Mids' recruiting coordinator, and was responsible for All-America and Hall of Fame running back Napoleon McCallum's decision to attend the Academy.
O'Brien joined the University of Virginia staff prior to the 1982 campaign. He coached the Cavaliers' guard and centers before being promoted to offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in the spring of 1991.
Following Virginia's 1994 season, he switched from quarterbacks coach to offensive line coach while remaining as offensive coordinator.
O'Brien and his wife, the former Jennifer Byrd of San Diego, are the parents of three children, Colleen Frances, a 2002 graduate of Boston College, Daniel Patrick, a sophomore at BC, and Bridget Jean, a sophomore at BC.