Penn State’s new football coach is on a three-week bus tour to introduce himself to fans.
Tuesday he made his first stop in our part of Pennsylvania, at the Penn State Hazleton campus.
Newswatch 16 had the chance to sit down one on one with Bill O’Brien so all of us can get to know the new coach.
O’Brien is on a tour through Nittany nation. In stop after stop he is seeing crowds of fans like the 215 people Tuesday at Penn State Hazleton.
It’s called the Coaches Caravan. O’Brien is traveling with a number of other Penn State coaches, but it is safe to he is getting most of the attention.
O’Brien said meeting the Penn State faithful face to face makes him realize what a great decision he made taking the coaching job.
“People are passionate about the university, they are passionate about the athletic department and they are passionate about the football program and, to me, that’s why you take a job like this. This is a place where you can do so many great things as a football program,” Coach O’Brien said.
We’ve heard a lot about O’Brien the coach and his approach on the football field, but the coach is a husband and father of young kids too.
When Newswatch 16 sat down with him, we talked to him about balancing it all.
“You gotta have a great wife. She’s awesome. She’s really smart and she offsets me because she’s very calm. She’s a great mom and to me too, part of it is involving your family in the football program. If you’re at spring practice you saw where our kids are there, running around on the field. They’re a part of it,” O’Brien said. “You’re going to spend 18 hours a day coaching football, you better make sure you’re family’s a part of it and that’s what we’re doing at Penn State.”
There was a lot of attention on his wife and one son when he was named head coach, but O’Brien has a special needs child at home too.
“The weekends I make sure my number one hobby is that I spend time with my family. I like to read, I play golf, I’m not very good. I love to play so I’ll start doing that in June. But number one I love spending time with my family in my down time,” the new coach said.
On this tour, O’Brien is getting to meet all kinds of fans who bleed blue and white, but he said he already has some die-hard Penn Staters at home.
“Oh yeah, they have all the jerseys, the hats and everything and my six-year-old has already memorized every name on the roster so it has been fun,” said O’Brien.
At the Hazleton campus Tuesday, Bill O’Brien paid tribute to Joe Paterno.
“I give Coach Paterno a ton of credit for what he stood for and what he did for this football program for almost 50 years, that will never be matched,” said O’Brien.
In his speech to fans, he paid tribute to Joe Paterno and said there is no replacing the legend.
O’Brien echoed Paterno, saying academics are important and so is success with honor.
“We have to make sure we live up to it. Success with honor means sure you’re going out and winning games but you’re graduating players, you have players involved in the community, you’ve got players that understand the meaning of that phrase and we teach those things all the time,” the new coach explained.
Some fans have wondered if he will change the traditional plain uniforms, if other traditions will be forgotten. He said no.
“We’ll put our stamp on different things like how we lift and how we train and our schemes on offense and defense, but again, you can’t say enough about what has gone on in the past as far as winning, as far as involvement in the community, as far as graduating players. So hopefully we continue that but put our stamp on Penn State football,” said O’Brien.
Fans getting to meet and listen to the coach liked what they heard.
“Oh it is very exciting. We’re looking forward to it and looking forward to the season. A new beginning,” said Anita Dunn of Tamaqua.
“I’m happy with the new recruits and what I’ve seen with the new head coach. He’s very well spoken. He seems like a very good guy,” said Ryan Donovan of Schuylkill Haven.
Of course they will be watching to see how Bill O’Brien does on the field.