RICHMOND - As successful as the Mount Union football program is, Edison High School graduate Shane O'Brien had something else on his mind before choosing the Alliance school as his college choice.
"I think it is a top-notch school in academics and athletics," he said. "You can't beat the football program. It is pretty centrally located, about an hour away. It offered the degree I wanted. I love the campus.
"I was there three times before I made my decision and committed on the fourth visit. Of the other colleges I visited, I kept finding myself coming back to Mount Union.
BAGS PACKED FOR ALLIANCE — Edison graduate Shane O’Brien, with his parents Dave and Jenney O’Brien and Wildcats football coach Mike McKenzie, will continue his academic and athletic careers at Mount Union, where he will major in exercise science and be a member of the football team.
"Academics is a big part of this decision. I love everything about the school. I felt welcome and comfortable and every time I stepped on campus. I felt like that is the school I should be going to.
"Being close to home also played a pretty big role. I didn't want to go too far away. It's not too far, but far enough so my family can come up and visit, and I can come home when I have a chance. It's far enough away so I can start being independent."
O'Brien will continue his academic and athletic careers at Mount Union, where he will major in exercise science and be a member of the football team.
"It's always been a dream of mine to play college football," he said.
"I've always been told I'm not big enough or I'm not tall enough and I use that to my advantage. If I'm not tall enough, I'll out-work the other guy. I've always used what I have to my advantage."
Edison coach Mike McKenzie used that attitude to his advantage.
"He is one of the two or three strongest kids pound for pound that we've had go through Edison," said the coach. "He is one of the kids who we had to kick out of the weight room. Being in the weight room and working out is something he loves to do. Whatever he does in life, he will be successful. He is a goal-oriented person and meets those goals."
McKenzie handed O'Brien a task after his junior year football season.
"He's a quiet kid naturally," said McKenzie. "His junior year he didn't say 'boo.' So, we went to him during the winter and told him he had to become more vocal. It was something he had to work on. You could tell he wasn't comfortable, but he continued to work at it and now he is comfortable being a vocal leader. When someone needs to get on someone, he can do that.
"Coming from him means something because everyone sees how hard he works."
Added O'Brien, "Doing what coach asked was tough at first. I was used to not saying much and when you don't say much, people aren't used to hearing you talk. I was not there to yell or scream, I was there to reinforce our goals, whether they were weight room goals, team goals or making sure we were focused at practice.
"I was tough to transition, but once I started to get used to it, it was pretty easy."
That work ethic is something O'Brien welcomes.
"There's some of us who love the weight room. We would try to get out of class to go down to the weight room. It's something we all did together," he said. "Coach (Derrick) Stickles always had the radio going. He's a high-energy coach. It didn't seem like you were working. It was a lot of fun."
Added McKenzie, "Every coach wants to coach a kid like Shane. He did everything we asked him to do. He does all the little things. He is as much or more self-disciplined than any kid I've ever coached. His self-discipline is phenomenal. He is mature beyond his years for a kid that age."
O'Brien, the Ohio MVP in the annual Ohio-Penn Quad County all-star game about three weeks ago, knows he didn't get to this point by himself.
"I want to thank my parents and family, they have supported me since I was playing junior ball," he said. "I also want to thank all the coaches and teammates I played with other the last few years. I also was to thank Mario Sinicropi, who has helped me in the weight room.
"Finally, I want to thank the recruiting coaches at Mount Union, coach (Zac) Bruney and coach (Landon) Herzick (an Edison graduate)."