EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


February 2, 2012

Andover's O'Brien will be a pro until the end

Focus on beating Giants, not Penn State

INDIANAPOLIS — Yesterday was a very big day for Billy O'Brien. At least that's what a lot of people were telling him.

The former Andover resident and current double-dipper — he is offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots and head coach of Penn State University — was in high demand among the media members who follow college football.

Yesterday was National Signing Day, the first day high school recruits officially announce their collegiate intentions.

Was he making last-minute calls to those recruits on the fence? Was he getting updates by the second from his staff back in University Park, Pa. on who's going where?

Well, being that Wednesday is the most important practice day in an NFL week. and the fact that this is the most watched football game of the year worldwide, the guess here is: no chance.

"I am here to help the Patriots prepare for a game on Sunday. That's my No. 1 focus," said O'Brien, 42. "We have people back at Penn State taking care of everything until I get there. We're playing a great football team. It's going to be a very difficult game for us."

One of the first things O'Brien did when he returned to Foxboro after the pomp and circumstance in University Park, Pa., was meet with Patriots coach Bill Belichick to talk about his dilemma.

Belichick had gone through the same routine with Charlie Weis seven years earlier when Weis agreed to take over another high profile collegiate superpower, Notre Dame. Apparently, Belichick couldn't have been nicer.

"Bill has been tremendous with his advice to me," said O'Brien. "He's been tremendous, assigning a couple of people to help me with Penn State things as they roll, like emails and phone calls. It's about people on both ends. We've got a great staff at Penn State, we've got a great staff here. It's been a seamless transition."

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