Danny O'Brien played his best football under coach Ralph Friedgen at Maryland, winning the ACC rookie of the year award in 2010.
MEDAL OF HONOR BOWL
WHEN: 2 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Johnson Hagood Stadium
TICKETS: www.mohbowl.com; www.etix.com
He's hoping that a reunion with "Coach Fridge" this week at the Medal of Honor Bowl can rekindle his hopes for an NFL career.
MEDAL OF HONOR BOWL ROSTERS
QB--Tyler Tettleton, Ohio; Danny O'Brien, Catawba. RB-D.J. Adams, Portland State; Raijon Neal, Tennessee; WR-Ronrei Lloyd, Central Missouri; Colin Lockett, San Diego State; Gerald Ford, Valdosta State; Quinton Payton, N.C. State; JaVontee Herndon, Arkansas; Jeremy Butler, UT-Martin; Solomon Patton, Florida; OL-Pat Eger, West Virginia; Alex Bullard, Tennessee; David Hurd, Arkansas; Curtis Feigt, West Virginia; Ryan Riggins, Fort Valley State; Jordan McCray, Central Florida; Justin McCray, Central Florida; Luke Bowanko, Virginia; TE-Asa Watson, N.C. State; Nikita Whitlock, Wake Forest; Ian Thompson, Louisiana-Lafayette.
DL-Maurice Couch, Tennessee; Cody Bauer, Rice; Jacques Smith, Tennessee; Bryan Jones, Arkansas; Kris Redding, Wake Forest; Jamil Merrell, Rutgers; Damien Jacobs, Florida; Darryl Cato-Bishop, N.C. State; Marlon Walls, Tennessee; LB-Mike Olson, Wake Forest; Jeremy Grable, Valdosta State; Marcus Whitfield, Maryland; Dontavis Sapp, Tennessee; Jamal Merrell, Rutgers; CB-Walter Aikens, Liberty; Brian Owusu, Harvard; Keith Lewis, Virginia-Union; Qua Cox, Jackson State; Brandon McCladdie, The Citadel; S-Parker Orms, Colorado; Dexter Moody, Albany State; L.J. McCray, Catawba; Mycal Swaim, Eastern Michigan; P/K-Michael Pallardy, Tennessee; LS-Marcus Woodside-Heit, Kansas State.
QB-Casey Pachall, TCU; Corey Robinson, Troy; Kory Faulkner, So. Illinois; RB-James Baker, Idaho; David Fluellen, Toledo; Charcandrick West, Abilene Christian; WR-Matt Hazel, Coastal Carolina; Nathan Slaughter, West Texas A&M; Keenan Holman, SMU; Taylor Gabriel, Abilene Christian; Eric Thomas, Troy; Jonathan Krause, Vanderbilt; D.J. Coles, Va. Tech; OL-Jimmy Bennett, UConn; Cody Booth, Temple; Trevor Foy, Purdue; Ronald Patrick, South Carolina; kevin Pamphile, Purdue; Parker Graham, Oklahoma State; Emmanuel McCray, Ole Miss; TE-Jacob Maxwell, Louisiana-Lafayette; Scott Simonsno, Assumption; Jordan Najvar, Baylor.
DL-Denico Autry, Mississippi State; Cory Henry, Florida Atlantic; Roosevelt Nix, Kent State; Antonio Gillespie, Troy; Euclid, Cummings; Daniel Riley, Harding; Kona Schwenke, Notre Dame; Greg Hickman, Florida Int.; LB-Keith Smith, San Jose State; Justin Anderson, La.-Lafayette; Deron Furr, Fort Valley State; Deontae Skinner, Mississippi State; Johnny Millard, Cal Poly; Adarius Glanton, Florida Atlantic; CB-Trevin Brandon, Monmouth; Devin Wallace, Va. Union; Terry Shankle, North Carolina; Malcolm Butler, W. Alabama; Steven Clarke, Vanderbilt; S-Shamiel Gary, Oklahoma State; Deon Broomfield, Iowa State; Camron Hudson, Troy; Adrian Phillips, Texas; P/K-Paul Layton, Temple; LS-Tanner Hedstrom, Colorado State.
"It's been cool to be back with Coach," said O'Brien, who will play quarterback for Friedgen's American team Saturday at Johnson Hagood Stadium. "It's almost like a reunion of old Maryland guys."
O'Brien passed for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns in 2010 as the Terps went 9-4, beat East Carolina by 51-20 in the Military Bowl and finished ranked No. 23 in the nation.
The future seemed limitless for the strong-armed O'Brien, a 6-3, 234-pounder who at least looked the part of an NFL quarterback.
But then came a shocking turn of events that sent O'Brien's college career spinning. Terps offensive coordinator James Franklin left to be head coach at Vanderbilt and Friedgen was fired by Maryland, leaving O'Brien to deal with a new coaching staff.
O'Brien did not mesh well with new Terps coach Randy Edsall, getting benched in 2011 before suffering a broken arm. He then transferred to Wisconsin with a Maryland degree, but lost his starting job there after just three games. When new coach Gary Andersen came in, he wanted to give younger guys a shot at quarterback.
"But he said if you want to get some games on tape to help you pursue your dreams, I'll help you do that," O'Brien said. "And that's what he did."
With only one season left to play, O'Brien wound up in Salisbury, N.C., at Catawba College, a Division II school that plays in the same league with schools such as Newberry, Lenoir-Rhyne and Brevard.
The offensive coordinator at Catawba - former Berkeley High School quarterback Kevin Brown - is good friends with O'Brien's high school coach.
"It's been a crazy ride," said O'Brien, who is from Kernersville, N.C. "But I've learned a lot along the way and I'm a tougher guy mentally because of all the places I've been."
Last season at Catawba, O'Brien completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 2,490 yards and 15 touchdowns against six interceptions for a 6-5 team. That was enough to earn him this shot at the Medal of Honor Bowl, where more than 100 NFL scouts are in attendance this week.
"I definitely feel I have something to prove," he said. "Some of that is being from a small school like Catawba, and I'm proud to say that. Any time a guy has transferred twice, there are going to be some question marks. So I need to get out and prove that I can be a good quarterback, I can make all the throws, and I can digest an offense and lead a team."
Back under Friedgen's tutelage, O'Brien is confident he can do that.
"I just want to get better each day this week," he said. "Getting my timing down with the receivers, leading in the huddle. If I can get better at those things every day, I'll leave here happy."
The lobby at Charleston Harbor Marina and Resort was packed with NFL scouts and players Tuesday morning as the scouts conducted interviews with prospects. The players braved the cold for practices in the afternoon. "They just gave me a hand-warmer, so they are taking good care of us," O'Brien said.
Fans can mingle with the players from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at The Alley on Columbus Street in Charleston. Admission is free.