College GameDay shares emotional story behind CFB debut of 4-time cancer survivor Casey O'Brien
Minnesota has become one of the best feel-good stories in college football this season with its 7-0 start. But that doesn’t compare at all to the story of Golden Gophers walk on place-holder Casey O’Brien, which ESPN covered in a feature during College Gameday on Saturday.
The St. Paul native was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, which is a rare form of bone cancer, at 13 in 2013. Doctors removed a “softball” sized tumor in his knee, but then two years later, the cancer returned to his lungs.
That wouldn’t be the only two times O’Brien battled and beat cancer. He also had to fight it a third time as a junior in high school and on a fourth occasion during his redshirt freshman season at Minnesota.
Through all of that, O’Brien continued to find solace in competing through sports. He became a kicker in high school and then walked onto to Golden Gophers as a holder. Minnesota was the only FBS program that medically cleared him to play college football.
Last week, he made his debut, holding an extra-point against Rutgers. Afterwards, the entire Minnesota team congratulated O’Brien on the field, and the holder had a tremendous embrace with P.J. Fleck.
“He’s the one that gave me the chance,” said O’Brien about the moment with Fleck. “The first thing I said to him was ‘It was worth it.’ Everything I had been through in my life was all worth it for that.”
“I don’t think I’ve held a player that long in my entire life,” said Fleck. “I didn’t want to let go.”
What an inspirational story. Watch the entire ESPN feature — though you might want to get a box of tissues first — below:
Minnesota walk-on and four-time cancer survivor Casey O'Brien not only fulfilled a dream last Saturday, but also kept a promise to those who battle cancer.
— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 26, 2019