Sunday, November 28, 2021

Sports Person of the Week

O’Brien Gaining Big Yards on the Gridiron


Senior captain running back Ethan O’Brien has ran for 361 yards and seven touchdowns for the Hand football team this season, including a huge performance versus Sheehan last week.

Photo courtesy of Ethan O’Brien

Senior captain running back Ethan O’Brien has ran for 361 yards and seven touchdowns for the Hand football team this season, including a huge performance versus Sheehan last week. (Photo courtesy of Ethan O’Brien)

After losing its first two games of the season, the Hand football squad is back at .500 after notching wins in its last two contests. One of the biggest reasons behind the team’s two recent victories is the play of senior captain running back Ethan O’Brien, who’s been moving the sticks and finding the end zone for the Tigers.

Ethan has 361 rushing yards with seven touchdowns through Hand’s first four games of the campaign. Last week, Ethan ran the ball 15 times for 117 yards and three TDs to help the Tigers claim a 49-6 win versus Sheehan.

“The game against Sheehan went great,” says Ethan. “Everything clicked for us, and our line was awesome. The wide receivers did a great job and, of course, [quarterback] Patch [Flanagan] was amazing.”

Ethan started playing football as a 7th-grader in 2016, drawing inspiration from his grandfather Bill O’Brien, along with his cousin Jamison O’Brien, who played for North Branford. Ethan’s passion for the gridiron has grown through the years, and he has his sights set on playing in college after he graduates from Hand.

“Ever since I was little, my grandfather was an advocate for us to play sports. I started with baseball, and so did my cousin. When my cousin switched to football, I would go to all his games,” Ethan says. “My grandpa asked if I wanted to play, and the first thing I thought of was making him proud. So, the next season I signed up for my 7th-grade season. I remember how proud he was of Jamison, and I wanted to do the same.”

Ethan embraces the physical nature of football. As a running back, Ethan loves maneuvering his way through the hole to bust off some big yardage and then cross the goal line for an important score.

“I love how it feels to break free and get into the end zone. There is nothing better than getting through a gap and breaking a big run,” says Ethan. “I also love the family and brotherhood that Daniel Hand has created. We are all so close with each other on this team, and a lot of that can be credited to our head coach.”

Head Coach Erik Becker describes Ethan as one of the most electric athletes on the Tigers’ roster. Coach Becker says that he’s clocked Ethan at running 22 miles per hour.

“Ethan is big, strong, and lightning fast. He’s an awesome young man who fully embodies everything we hope for in a player,” Becker says. “Ethan understands the powerful tradition of our program and works hard to set that standard of excellence every day.”

Coach Becker compares Ethan to a former Hand stalwart. Becker sees Ethan as a similar running back to Jim Bell, who graduated from Hand, went on to play for Boston College, and was later drafted by the San Francisco 49ers.

“When people compare him to former Hand running backs, the name that comes up most often is Jim Bell. They are virtually identical in size and speed,” says Becker. “Jim Bell was hand-timed at 10.5 seconds in the 100-meter dash, and Ethan was 11.2 electronic.”

This is only Becker’s first year as Hand’s head coach, but Ethan says that their relationship has taken off quickly.

“I love Coach Becker,” says Ethan. “He’s a great man, and I appreciate everything he has done for me and our team.”

As Hand enters the home stretch of its regular season, Ethan has some big goals for both himself and the Tigers. Ethan wants to keep racking up plenty rushing yards, while helping Hand achieve its dream of claiming a state championship.

“I go as hard as I can at practice every day to make me and our team better. I also train, lift, and run all offseason. Sometimes I train after practice just to get a few extra reps in,” Ethan says. “It’s meant everything to me to be able to play this season through the pandemic. I’m playing every snap like it’s my last.”

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