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Billy Ball

Thursday, July 09, 2009


By: Gordon Morton, Brown Alumni Magazine

During the final team dinner of the 1991 football season, head coach Mickey Kwiatkowski asked every senior to stand and say a few words about the team, the last game he would soon be playing, and his time at Brown.

"I stood up," recalls Scott Perry '92, "and thanked Bill O'Brien for being such a good friend and being a bright spot in an otherwise pathetic season

Perry was not the only senior to thank O'Brien that night. In fact, according to Perry, every senior rose and thanked O'Brien for his camaraderie. The love fest finally prompted one of the coaches to ask: "Why the heck is everyone thanking Billy?"

It wasn't because of his athletic prowess. O'Brien describes himself then as "an average player on some below-average teams." The Bears, in fact, were 1–9 during the season Perry describes. "I played hard," O'Brien says, "I think I had a decent sense of humor, and I had some fun playing."

"Bill's sense of humor, charismatic personality, and ability to tell stories were the reasons why teammates would gravitate to him," Perry says. "He could tell the same story ten times, and even if you heard it all ten times, you would laugh just as hard, if not harder. He not only got a few laughs out of us during a dismal year, he made showing up for practice a lot more enjoyable."
 
After graduation, O'Brien joined Kwiatkowski's staff at Brown, assisting with the tight ends. When Kwiatkowski was replaced by Mark Whipple '79 for the 1994 season, O'Brien stayed on. In 1995 he moved on to Georgia Tech under head coach George O'Leary, who switched him to offense.

"Coach O'Leary put me on offense right from day one," O'Brien says, "and I've never been on defense since."

For Gordon Morton's piece in it's entirety as found in the Brown Alumni Magazine, please click here.