According to O'Brien, the only thing similarity between him and the 2011 Big Ten quarterback of the year is their willingness to come in and get right to work.
"My plan is not really say a lot about what I am going to do but to go in there, work hard (and) try to be the hardest worker out there," O'Brien said in a teleconference with reporters. "I know there are a lot of hard workers on that team, so I think the best way to earn respect is to show it by example that I am here to work hard, I am a team guy and coming to help win games any way that I can.
"(Russell and my) paths are similar coming from the ACC to Wisconsin, but it's a new year. It's a new season that has yet to be written."
Even though O'Brien said he isn't worried about the added expectations, the story for the University of Wisconsin was given a welcome plot twist when O'Brien signed with Wisconsin Wednesday morning. O'Brien provides immediate offense for Wisconsin – which is coping with three of its five fall quarterbacks coming off surgeries.
O'Brien earned FWAA Freshman All-America honors in 2010 after throwing for 2,438 yards and 22 touchdowns in 10 starts. He was also named ACC Rookie of the Year and finished the season ranked fourth in the league in pass efficiency. In two seasons, he has 17 starts under his belt, impressive considering none of the five quarterbacks on UW's roster have started a game.
"I take a lot of pride in being very prepared every game," O'Brien said. "I pride myself on being accurate with the ball, moving the chains and getting it in the hands of the playmakers, which Wisconsin has a lot of them."
After redshirting as a true freshman at Maryland in 2009, O'Brien will have two years remaining allowing him even more time to thrive in an offense, he says, won't deviate from what the Badgers are known for.
"Coach Canada is an extremely sharp coach, pretty impressive," said O'Brien." The offense is going to be pretty much Wisconsin football game. There is no question with the offensive line and running game at Wisconsin that stuff can stem off of that. I think it fits what I do well. It's pretty similar to what I did at Maryland two years ago with the pro-style look, so I am excited to get back into that.
"To have two seasons to play a lot of football at the school, that will certainly ingrain my loyalty years from now to the Wisconsin program."
That was just one aspect of the Wisconsin visit that impressive O'Brien, who said the Wisconsin experience was "everything I was looking for during this process." After leaving Wisconsin Sunday night, O'Brien headed to Penn State for a second visit Monday in order to see the Nittany Lions practice.
After coming home and sleeping on his decision Tuesday, he was convinced that UW was the right place for him.
"The vibe I got when I was at Wisconsin was special," said O'Brien, whose next trip to Penn State will be Nov.24 with Wisconsin. "Being there with the players on the team, the coaches on the team, the supporting staff … There was no denying that after I took the Wisconsin visit, especially after talking with my family about it, that Wisconsin was home. It felt more like the place I wanted to be."
It also gives his extending family a chance to see him compete. Although he was highly recruited out of East Forsyth High School in Kernersville, N.C., O'Brien was born in Minneapolis and was able to have a couple of his family members come down for his official visit.
"I am familiar with the area and it obviously it's a great place on gameday to play college football," said O'Brien. "It's kind of the complete package for me."
O'Brien said he hopes to get a playbook from offensive coordinator Matt Canada as soon as NCAA rules allow, will graduate in the middle of May and get to Madison as soon as possible, likely before the Badgers start their summer conditioning program in June.
"You love to have those high expectations and win like that, but I am not going to try to swallow that all at once. I am going to learn the playbook, work hard through camp and Northern Iowa is up first. That's kind of how you have to approach the season – a game at a time."
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