I was watching The Bachelor with my girlfriend last night, eliciting glares with my snarky commentary, when she casually mentioned that the father of one of the four girls still vying for Brad Womack's heart was a former NFL player. This required further investigation, so I resorted to the football fan's equivalent of Facebook stalking: pro-football-reference.com. Indeed, Mike O'Brien, loving father of Chantal O., played three games for the Seattle Seahawks in 1979. He also went to Cal.
The name didn't ring a bell, but I'm not exactly up on my '70s Golden Bears, so I did a little more research. O'Brien, who now runs the largest auto dealership in his native Washington, was a standout safety at Olympic College, where he garnered the attention of several Pac-8 schools. He verbally committed to finish his collegiate career at Stanford, but, in a plot twist that would make The Bachelor's producers blush, changed his plans en route to visit the campus after Christmas. While stopping for gas in Berkeley, O'Brien called Cal head coach Mike White.
"I told him I was going to Stanford, but he said, 'No problem, come on over and we'll go to dinner.' I ended up hanging out all night with Cal players, partying, and never got off campus. When I see Mike now, I tell him he should go into the car business."
One of the highlights of O'Brien's injury-shortened Cal career came in the 1976 Big Game. His interception in the fourth quarter set up Cal's go-ahead touchdown before Stanford rallied to win, 27-24.
O'Brien attended training camp as an undrafted free agent with the Seahawks in 1978 and the San Francisco 49ers in 1979. While he failed to earn a roster spot out of camp in either year, the injury-depleted Seahawks signed him for the last three games of the 1979 season. O'Brien played for a semipro team in Yuba City before joining the USFL's Oakland Invaders in 1983. O'Brien played half a season before retiring at the urging of Invaders coach John Ralston, who had previously worked as an assistant coach at Cal and head coach at Stanford. From the Associated Press:
"It's just a case of too many head injuries," Ralston said. "I want to win football games, but I don't want to win that bad."
His football career over, O'Brien returned to the business he learned while selling used cars during the summers as a 19- and 20-year-old. For those of you who weren't watching last night's episode, his daughter received a rose (insert Cal football joke here) to advance to the final three.