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Ben O'Connor welcomes brother to McMaster program
Posted: August 22nd, 2013 @ 11:44pm
By CLAUDE SCILLEY
HAMILTON - Mitch O'Connor knows how lucky he is.
"If I do something wrong, he's going to be the first one to come and tell me what to fix and what to do," said the rookie McMaster receiver whose big brother, Ben, preceded Mitch to the Marauders football team two years ago.
"He's texted me a few times when there's meetings that we aren't aware of, last-minute kind of things. If we miss those we'd be in pretty big trouble so that helps a lot, too.
"He didn't really have anyone to do that."
It's the first year the siblings from Frontenac Secondary School have ever played together on an organized sports team.
"It's quite fun," Mitch said. "It helps me get along with other guys as well, because I know him and then he would talk to other guys in the group (and include me). It helps a lot with the social aspect."
Ben O'Connor is one of the experienced members of the McMaster receiving corps, beginning his third varsity season.
"It's different," he said of having his kid brother around. There's a dual responsibility there, he explained, of a veteran trying to help a young teammate fit in with the team, and a brother trying to help a sibling adapt to campus life.
"I've got to worry about myself and him at the same time because he's just learning," Ben said. "As a vet and as a brother I'm trying to help out as much as I can but also look after myself.
"I'm trying to make sure he understands things, football-wise. It will come. He's doing all right. He's getting a hold of things."
Ben said he approached his third university training camp with an eye to being more fit than he's been in the past.
"I've noticed in years past dragging out into the season, you get more and more fatigued so the off-season was pretty big for me. Also looking at it with an open mind, knowing more concepts and everyone else's position so I can play where needed if needed."
O'Connor started as a sophomore last year but was fifth among McMaster receivers with 20 passes caught. Three of the players ahead of him - Robert Babic, Brad Fochesato and Dahlin Brooks - are gone, however, and O'Connor is eager to become more involved.
"Marsh and I are on a pretty good page, so we'll see," O'Connor said of his quarterback, fellow Frontenac teammate Marshall Ferguson. The two have had a special relationship for several years.
"Marshall forced me to play," O'Connor recalled. "Between him and my other buddies. I played hockey and lacrosse up to Grade 12 so I've got a late start at this whole football thing.
"I was just busy doing other things outside of school, track and hockey. I never really liked football but the physical aspect of it intrigued me. I went to practice and that was it.
"I definitely made the right decision. The ability to play in two national championships is pretty special. Not many people can say that, let alone winning one."
Mitch O'Connor said the adjustment to the pace of intercollegiate football has been difficult, "but I guess that's pretty normal."
"It's mentally challenging, going from being the top whatever from your high school or your league, straight to the bottom and having to think about that all the time, and work your way up.
"It's what you expect but it's pretty discouraging as well," he said, "but they teach you quite well so you've just got to listen to everybody, learn your plays, learn everything that you have to learn, listen to what's going on (and) right things will happen."
Marauders coach Stefan Ptaszek smiled as he considered words to describe the O'Connor brothers.
"They are very similar in toughness and work ethic and discipline," he said. "It's like they have a cloning machine in the O'Connor household."
The similarities extend to the way the boys play the game, Ptasek said.
"It's such a rare thing that a receiver is more proud of his blocking than his touchdown catches," he said. "Both O'Connor boys take such joy in the little things, and doing all the role playing, as they do in being in the limelight. That's unique and both of them have it
"Ben is fast becoming one of the leaders on our football team because he works so hard, he's a great special-teams player plus he's a great receiver. Mitch has turned a ton of heads. He's certainly in the dress mix as a true freshman. You're going to see him in a uniform this year, providing he stays healthy."
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