Ben Murphy
Contributing Writer

(Photo provided)

It is safe to say that the two seasons John O’Brian played football at South Dakota State were quite memorable. The 6’5” 300 pound right tackle was a key part of the Jackrabbit’s offensive line, a team that won back-to-back Division 1 Football Championship Series national championships.

“We had won the national championship (in 2023), that emotion was pure joy,” O’Brian, a 2018 Charlotte graduate said. “This year after our second I was still very happy but got a little emotional. Knowing you just played your last snaps of college football hits pretty hard. But I couldn’t have asked for any better way to have finished my time at SDSU.”

After a stand-out high school career for Charlotte, O’Brian went on to play three seasons at Division 1 school Bowling Green State University; where he played many offensive line positions.

That’s when his football career hit a crossroads.

“For awhile, I had thought that I was done with college football,” O’Brian said. “When I entered the transfer portal at Bowling Green part of me was ready to be done. I got a job working the night shift at Costco moving pallets around while also finishing up my bachelors for the next two semesters.”

Sometimes things just have a way of working out.

“Then, in March of 2022 a month before graduation, Ryan Olson the offensive line coach at South Dakota State messaged me on Twitter and I ended up going out for a visit in April,” O’Brian said. “It was a great experience and I decided soon after I wanted to play there.”

That decision led to a pair of national championships on the field, and an MS degree in Geography.

“In the years prior the team had been trending in the right direction towards winning a national championship,” he said. “I felt like when I arrived there was an outstanding core of seniors and super talented underclassmen ready to go. Over my two years there I was blessed to play with extremely talented teammates and passionate coaches that made success the standard.”

In January of 2023 they defeated North Dakota State in the championship game; 45-21. In January 2024 it was a 23-3 victory over Montana.

“In either championship we were playing against very talented opponents and there’s always the chance you can lose,” O’Brian said. “But, in both games our entire team believed, maybe even knew that we would come out on top. That sort of attitude comes from the trust and love that made the teams I was a part of at SDSU so special. Just having the utmost confidence in your teammates and coaches that everyone will get their job done and even if they don’t, you’re going to have their back anyways.”

O’Brian will get his degree from SDSU in May. In the meantime he will be training at AdvantEdge, in Marquette as part of his prep for his pro day on March 25. His football career just might not be done yet.

“(That’s) the goal, to have an opportunity to play in the NFL,” O’Brian said.