Allegheny Senior On The Verge Of Record-Breaking Football Season
MEADVILLE, Pa. — The short list of the best wide receivers in college football includes one familiar name: Declan O’Brien.
The senior from Irwin, Pennsylvania, is amid one of the greatest seasons ever by an Allegheny College wide receiver. His outstanding performance on the gridiron also has O’Brien ranked among the top pass catchers at all three levels of NCAA football.
Through the first six games of the 2023 season, O’Brien leads Divisions I, II, and III with 897 receiving yards. No Division I or II student-athlete has eclipsed the 800-yard mark, and O’Brien is one of only three to do so at the Division III level. Additionally, he’s second nationally with 11.0 receptions per game and third with 149.5 yards per game.
In his most recent game, which garnered both Presidents’ Athletic Conference (PAC) Offensive Player of the Week and D3football.com Team of the Week accolades, O’Brien set a team record with 18 catches for 233 yards and a touchdown against one of the PAC’s premier opponents, Washington and Jefferson College.
According to first-year head football coach Braden Layer, “He is one player we try to never take out of the game on offense – he is that special.”
Layer knows a thing or two about coaching top-caliber receivers. An award-winning receiver himself, Layer worked hand-in-hand with the team’s all-time leading receiver, Alex Victor ’20, during his first stint in Meadville as Allegheny’s offensive coordinator in 2017 and 2018. Victor logged the only 1,000-yard seasons in school history in those two years and graduated first all-time with 3,294 receiving yards and 36 touchdown catches.
“Their biggest similarity is their flexibility within the offense,” said Layer when comparing O’Brien to Victor. “We live by the mentality of ‘players, formations, plays.’ Essentially, we identify who our best players are and then find ways to move them around our offense. Like Alex, Declan will line up in the slot, out as the No. 1 wide receiver, or sometimes in the backfield to help guarantee touches.”
Layer also commends O’Brien for the effort he put into his craft during the offseason.
“He is maybe the best-conditioned football player I have ever been around and spends plenty of time on rehab and recovery to make sure he can play every snap,” Layer said.
On the field, O’Brien’s quickness, high football IQ, and route-running capabilities have made it nearly impossible for opposing defenses to slow him down.
“There are subtle nuances to many of our routes, and he is becoming a master of his craft in recognizing space,” Layer explained. “It’s easier said than done, but he’s showing he can win versus man coverage and also find the soft spots versus zone.”
The son of Jerry O’Brien ’91, a running back on Allegheny’s 1990 national championship team, the younger O’Brien has also been recognized by the National Football Foundation (NFF.) In September, the NFF selected O’Brien as a semifinalist for the William V. Campbell Trophy®. Considered college football’s premier scholar-athlete award, the Campbell Trophy “recognizes an individual as the absolute best football scholar-athlete in the nation for his combined academic success, football performance, and exemplary leadership.” Coupled with his hard work on the field, O’Brien is an Alden Scholar, and last spring, he was inducted into Allegheny’s chapter of the Chi Alpha Sigma National College Athlete Honor Society.