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Sean O’Brien continues a tradition and showcases the resurgence TRA Program with signing to Hendrix

By Thomas Sellers Jr.Sean O'Brien Warriors

There’s no doubt football is a frequent topic at the dinner table of the O’Brien family.
The only questions are how long will the discussion last and what props will be brought out. As the matriarch of the family, Sherrie O’Brien has made sure the talks remainded balanced between father/coach Shannon and sons/players Sean and Shane.
“I’ll give you an example,” she recalled. “It’s 9 o’clock at night. I work at a practice and I get home about 7. I still cook dinner every night. I have dinner on my dining room table and they’re eating.
“Then the white board comes out and they’re going over plays,” Sherrie added. “This is about 8:30 at night. At 9 o’clock I’m like, ‘Does anybody have homework? There’s a time and place and it’s 9 o’clock.’”
Between chats about Tipton-Rosemark Academy Rebel plays and formations, in recent months the O’Briens discussed the college future of elder son Sean. The TRA defensive back made his decision official April 24 in the school’s lobby signing his national letter of intent to play for Hendrix College in Conway, Ark.
After helping the Rebels reach the playoffs in 2013 for the first time in years, O’Brien ended the long drought of Rebel Football players signing to play at the next level.
“I don’t know how long it has been, but since the time I’ve been here for going on 8 years,” TRA Head Coach Dodd Gengenbach noted, “it’s been the first time we’ve had anybody sign a letter of intent for football since I’ve been here. It shows our program is growing and heading in the right direction for kids who want to continue to play football at the next level.
“Sean has always been a great young man,” he added. “As a sophomore he was reserved and quiet. Then he developed as a leader. By his senior year,  he was the one being vocal out there. He became the type of kid you could build your program around his senior year. It was really neat to see that development into leadership.”
When Gengenbach took over the Rebel program he brought in new coaches to help guide his quality group of players. One of those coaches was Shannon O’Brien.
For years O’Brien made a name for himself in the area at schools like St. Benedict. After a year in Southern Mississippi, O’Brien came back to Tennessee to join TRA. And he brought a couple of players, Shane a freshman at the time and Sean, one grade higher.
Instilling the values of the game in his sons, Shannon was familiar with the path Sean and Shane needed to travel to reach college football.
When he was a prep standout coached by his father Dick O’Brien, Shannon has a signing day in the Tampa, Fla., area.
“My father went through the same thing with me,” he recalled. “I played for my Dad. It’s a big moment. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do, he and I, and of course his younger brother Shane. My brother and I both played for my Dad. And my brother’s son played for him.
“So it’s kind of been a traditional thing,” Shannon continued. “It’s a big deal and we’re excited about it. We’re excited for him and the opportunity Hendrix is going to give him a chance to actually step on the field early. It’s a brand new program only in it’s second season.”
Sean will become a Hendrix Warrior this fall joining the Southern Athletic Association, NCAA Division III squad. Hendrix will enter its second season of football under Head Coach Justin “Buck” Buchanan.
Sean will help the Hendrix program get established after being a key part of reestablishing the Rebel program.
“It’s something I’m going to be proud of,” Sean said, “being part of the group that helped get them back there. It feels really good signing. Hopefully it will be an inspiration to some of the other players coming along to extend their goals and reach further.”
To reach college Sean knew he had to attack the classroom like he attacks a wide receiver coming over the middle.
“As for Dad/Coach, I know they’re (the Warriors) getting a kid who has a great work ethic,” Shannon said. “And I hope that’s what he’s taken from me. I took that from my Dad, which is work ethic on the field. He’s overcome a lot of other situations. In his younger age from an academic standpoint.
“This school (TRA) is not an easy school to get accepted in from an academic standpoint,” he added. “To get a 26 on the ACT and have the GPA he has which is a 3.4. there was a time when he was in elementary school we were worried if he would even get an opportunity to go to college, much less play football in college. That just speaks a lot to him. I’m more proud of what he has overcome academically and the learning disability he had.”
After overcoming that hurdle, some perceived Sean has to take on the challenge of playing for his father. But the safety said the experience was a blessing.
“Some people might say, ‘Oh, it wasn’t very fun,’” he said. “For me, it kind of helped me grow up as a person. I learned a lot of lessons from him. My brother and I grew not only as brothers but as teammates. We’ve both had a head for the game. I can contribute that to him and my brother.”
Sean acknowledge there were some challenges playing for a passionate coach/dad.
“Definitely when my brother or me made a mistake,” Sean recalled, “we knew it and you could hear him, even when they had him in the box. You could hear him from the field. We’d get a good talking to when we got home. He was always trying to make us better.
“The best part of playing for him was definitely I could go home and he would talk to me about a game plan,” he added. “And we could just get it figured out. And the fact he always had a trust in me and also my brother.”
Shannon and Gengenbach allowed Sean to be the quarterback of the secondary and a coach on the field. Sherrie said both her sons put in the work to be entrusted.
“I believe you have to pay to play,” she said. “If you want to play football you have to workout in the weight room and you have to be committed. Not only on the field but in the classroom, I tell my children, ‘You need to not only be passionate about what you do. But be compassionate to those around you.’
“I’m going to push the academics, and Dad is going to push the weight room,” she added. “When they get home, they go over other things. We look at a lot of film. I can tell you the difference between a trap option into the A-gap or B-gap. I’m not the coach, my husband is. But sometimes I’m like, ‘What’s happening in that play?’ We have an intense household.”
Sherrie, a former two-sport college athlete herself, said another key to Sean reaching the next level was allowing him to have freedoms and enjoy the game of football.
“We love athletics,” she said. “But it’s all about balance. God is first and then the family is second. Football is not first and some people wouldn’t understand that. Football is important but you have to pay to play.
“You do what the coach says and don’t take it personal,” Sherrie continued. “You need teammates in your life, you need others in order to succeed. It’s not all about you, if it was, the world would be a selfish place. Share with others, care for others and be responsible for others.”
Sean’s special day was shared with many in the TRA Lobby.  Those affiliated with TRA Football acknowledged the signing to Hendrix is a perfect addition to the 2013 season.
“It’s definitely the cherry on top of the sundae,” Shannon said. “We told them if they stayed and stayed committed, we would have some success. And they’ve had some success. For Sean, we don’t have many players come out of Tipton-Rosemark to go on and play college ball. But it speaks a lot to where our program is heading.”
“It’s been a great year for us,” Gengenbach concluded. “I feel our program is heading in the right direction with us making the playoffs. Hopefully this year, 2013, will be a stepping stone for us to expect we’re going to playoffs. To have those expectations, not only us coaches, but all of our kids to know they have the opportunity to do that and deserve to do that.”

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