By Tim Owen
For The Daily Item
STATE COLLEGE -- For Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, his weekly news conference Tuesday almost seemed like a trip down memory lane. That's because the opposing head coach this week -- UCF's George O'Leary -- is one of O'Brien's most trusted mentors and the guy who gave him his first true coaching gig. And reporters were intrigued by the unique career connection.
O'Leary first hired O'Brien at Georgia Tech in 1995 as a graduate assistant, and the relationship was not short lived. To this day, O'Brien has served under O'Leary longer than any other head football coach, including New England Patriots' Bill Belichick. Throughout '95-'01, under O'Leary, O'Brien served as the Yellow Jackets' G.A., running backs coach and offensive coordinator.
Now in his second year as head coach, what has O'Brien learned most from his time spent with O'Leary?
"I took two big lessons from him," O'Brien said. "One was organization. He was a very organized guy. There wasn't a wasted moment during the day. That had a lot to do with work ethic. We worked extremely hard, all of us did. He demanded that of us. So I learned a lot about that.
"Then I just learned about how important the physical toughness and resiliency of your football team is. That's a very important characteristic of a good football team. ... When you have a physical resilient, tough football team, then you've got a chance to win games."
O'Leary and O'Brien have since parted ways on the coaching trail, but their paths will cross for 60 minutes Saturday when O'Leary's Knights travel into Beaver Stadium for a 6 p.m. kickoff. The coaches might be looking forward to a short reunion, but obviously other tasks will have them occupied.