Welcoming Bill O’Brien
It’s just before 12:30 on Monday afternoon, and the HUB is packed.
It’s one of those days where you can barely walk more than 20 feet without accidentally bumping somebody’s shoulders. It’s the day after the Super Bowl, and more than a few students have bags under their eyes. The line at Panda Express is long, but the line is Starbucks is longer.
But here are Maddy Pryor and Marissa Peterson, two public relations majors, sitting at a table in the center of the chaos. And they couldn’t have bigger grins on their face.
“The Super Bowl is over,” Peterson said. “Which means he’s finally ours. He’s all ours.”
He, of course, is Bill O’Brien, Penn State’s new football coach. With the New York Giants’ 21-17 victory over New England on Sunday, he officially concluded his duties as the Patriots’ offensive coordinator and can now assume full responsibilities of his new job.
Pryor and Peterson are members of PRIDE, a student-run organization focused on promoting sportsmanship. On Monday, they also promoted hospitality in their event titled Welcome Bill O’Brien to the Penn State Family! “We just wanted to welcome Bill O’Brien to the Penn State family and show our support,” said Peterson, the club’s secretary. “He arrives tomorrow.”
So PRIDE created an over-sized welcome card on white poster board. They encouraged students to write small messages or simply sign their name. Whitespace was filling up quickly. Everyone seemed to like the idea. As I hung around the table, a freshman on the men’s basketball team, Trey Lewis, stopped by. In a thick Sharpie pen, he wrote: “Welcome coach, from men’s basketball. -Trey Lewis #3”
The women don’t know exactly how they’ll get the card to O’Brien. “But we’ll find a way,” Pryor said.
The table also featured a sportsmanship pledge, one of PRIDE’s signature initiatives. There were about 150 signatures on the pledge poster on the table. Pryor said there were six more posters rolled up under the table. The pledge is brought out a few times a year, Pryor said, including April’s Blue-White weekend.
A few students lingered around the table, talking about the pledge and Coach O’Brien. Peterson quizzed students from a prepared set of O’Brien-centric trivia questions so fans can get to know their new coach a little better.
Some questions were very basic. Did you know O’Brien is from Massachusetts? Did you know he has two sons named Jack and Michael?
But there was one question that stuck out.
Did you know O’Brien wore a blue jersey with a white collar and plain helmet while he played football at St. John’s Prep?
-Emily Kaplan, intern
P.S. To read the Boston Globe story that accompanied the photo, click here.