The Minnesota Golden Gopher football team's win over the Rutgers Scarlet Knights on Saturday appeared to be business as usual for this year's team. However, as the Gophers were well in control of the game in the fourth quarter, head coach P.J. Fleck made a change at place holder and Casey O'Brien entered the game.
On the surface, this looks like a move designed to get some of the backups on the team some playing time in a blowout. But O'Brien's story is different considering the walk-on is a four-time cancer survivor and has undergone 14 surgeries dating back to his initial diagnosis of osteosarcoma in high school.
Throughout his recovery, O'Brien continued to chase his dream of playing Division-I football and as a place holder for the Cretin-Durham Hall football team during his junior and senior seasons. As he made his way to the Gophers, he continued to practice and had yet to make his way into a game until Saturday afternoon.
After Mohamed Ibraheim scored a touchdown to put the Gophers up 28-0, O'Brien made his way to the field for an extra point attempt from Michael Lantz. After the kick went through the uprights, O'Brien was mobbed by his teammates and shared a long embrace with Fleck on the sidelines.
"He's an unbelievable person," Fleck said of O'Brien after the game to Big Ten Network. "Nobody can take away that he played college football in the Big Ten."
"This is what I've dreamed about," O'Brien added in an interview with BTN. "Tonight, it got to come true."
O'Brien would hold on two more placekicks for Lantz to close the game and was part of the Gophers victory that ensured their first 7-0 start since 1960.