The New England Patriots selected Ryan O'Callaghan 136th overall in the fifth round of the NFL draft. They signed him on July 19th, the day of his 23rd birthday. The terms of his agreement have not been disclosed, but it must have been a pretty good birthday present. As an offensive tackle for California, O'Callaghan proved himself to be a real bear of a run blocker.
O'Callaghan was believed by many to be one of the top offensive tackles entering the 2006 NFL draft and many were surprised when he was not selected in the early rounds. As for the reason he wasn't drafted earlier, many point to the fact that he had four shoulder surgeries, two concussions and two hand fractures in college. If health was a concern, it shouldn't have been. None of these injuries affected his play at Cal, where he started in 35 games, only missing one game due to a concussion during his senior year.
A native of Redding, California, he has become something of a hometown hero. Sometimes referred to as "The Big O" or "The O.C." by friends, this 6-7, 330 pound behemoth is reportedly quite affable despite his intimidating dimensions. But don't call him "Muffin" as his high school teammates did. According to Redding sports columnist John Ryan, the nickname was an attempt to agitate the mild-mannered tackle before games. Not that he needed to play angry to play well in Redding.
"He would destroy two, sometimes three guys on any given play, but contrary to the stereotypical football player – big, dumb, likes to hurt people – the Big O didn't get any satisfaction from his numerous pancake blocks," writes Ryan. Redding's The Record Searchlight recently began handing out the Muffin Trophy, an award headed up by Ryan, which honors a local lineman annually, naming him "the best high school lineman" for that season.
O'Callaghan has excelled since high school. During the last two seasons, he earned consecutive first-team all-Pac 10 honors and helped clear the way for over 4,000 yards of rushing divided among three running backs.
Last season, he received special recognition when he earned the Morris Trophy, presented annually to the PAC-10's most outstanding offensive and defensive linemen. The award has a unique selection process in which the conference's starting defensive linemen vote for the most outstanding offensive linemen and vice versa. Cal averaged 235.2 yards rushing per game last year, which ranked ninth in the country.
O'Callaghan has a lot of people who believe in him back in California and perhaps more who are hoping he's reliable in New England. "They drafted me for a reason and I'm going to be ready to play wherever they want me to play," O'Callaghan said. "I'm very happy to be in New England." He should stay happy here, so long as nobody calls him Muffin.