For the first time since becoming the head coach of the Houston Texans, Bill O'Brien was back on campus this weekend, serving as guest speaker at Penn State's Coaches Clinic.
"Relative to college football, this is football heaven," O'Brien said Saturday. "I have great memories here, nothing but good feelings about Penn State."
O'Brien served as head coach of the Nittany Lions from 2012-2013, where he navigated the Lions to 15 wins in two years despite the crippling sanctions handed down by the NCAA. He knew that Penn State would go through some rough years, but there was never a doubt in his mind the program would return to being a college football powerhouse.
Since O'Brien left, Penn State is 36-17 with a back-to-back New Year's Six bowl appearances the past two years.
"This is where Penn State should be, on the brink of a National Championship and being the type of time that can go out there and compete with anybody in the country," O'Brien said.
Penn State's return to national prominence happened far quicker than most people imagined, but OB and his staff knew Penn State was just a sleeping giant and believed that once the sanctions were lifted, the program would return to the college football blue-bloods.
"There were people said this program would be basically a D2, Divison I-AA program," O'Brien said. "...I think we all knew that was never going to happen."
Although hired a few weeks after O'Brien left for the NFL, he may have played a big role in James Franklin's decision to go for the Nittany Lion coaching job. The two knew each other from their time on the staff at Maryland. O'Brien had a phone call with Franklin about the job where they discussed everything from personnel, to facilities, to the overall trend of the program.
O'Brien has been to the playoffs in two of his four years with the Texans. He credits his time at Penn State with teaching him how to be a head coach at a high level.
"I learned about character...That's what we had here. We had a bunch of guys who loved to practice, who loved Penn State."
Video courtesy of 247 Sports