Jim O'Brien, The Most Prolific Bearcat

O_brien_medium
WR - 1967-69

It is one of the eternal chicken and egg quandaries in Football. Does a receiver make a QB look good or is it the receiver who makes the QB look good? Usually, its hard to tell. Sometimes it is downright impossible. In the late 60's in the friendly confines of Nippert Stadium it was scarcely worth the effort trying to figure it out. All that anyone knew was that Greg Cook and his favored target Jim O'Brien were putting gobs of points and yards on anyone they played.

Jim O'Brien was raised in Hyde Park and attended Aiken High School. He went to Air Force to play Basketball but developed an ulcer. Faced with a dangerous surgery that would remove part of his stomach or a discharge order, O'Brien chose the latter. He landed at UC and went out for Basketball. In 1967 he went out for Football and made the roster for new coach Homer Rice. in 68 he went on scholarship and his on field production exploded. That year he caught 44 passes for 1,107 yards and 12 TD's. His record for single season receiving yards and TD's stood for 34 and 39 years respectively. Only Mardy Gilyard and Dominick Goodman have more 100 yard receving games to their credit. His career average of 21.97 yards per catch will likely never be touched.

But O'Brien wasn't just a gifted receiver, he was also the place kicker for those prolific teams of the late 60's. In that 1968 season O'Brien led the entire country in scoring with 142 points. That record stands to this day. The nearest to the mark is the 104 points put up by Jonathan Ruffin in his Lou Groza award winning season in 2000.

The capstone to his career was his last second field goal against Bo Schembechler and the arch rival Redskins of Miami in 1968 that gave UC a 23-21 win and their first winning season in 4 years. That win also knocked Miami out of contention for a bowl bid and snapped a three game Miami win streak in the series.

Outside of 275 O'Brien is best known for the game clinching kick that gave the Baltimore Colts the title in Super Bowl V.

But the memory of the kick in the Miami game still looms large O'Brien today. If I can quote from Josh Katzowitz's excellent Bearcats Rising.

[...]The other game is much more renowned. I am really glad that I made both kicks, but warm feelings are warmer when I think about the Miami game.

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