The Abbott Tech/Immaculate football co-op — the collaborative effort to save two struggling programs from the chopping block by combining them — has produced yet another college-bound athlete.
Star running back Jordan O’Brien, an Abbott Tech senior, has committed to play football at Division III Utica College in upstate New York. After a senior year that included 738 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, two receiving touchdowns and a 32-yard scoop-and-score fumble recovery, O’Brien is excited for what lies ahead.
“It’s a great feeling,” said O’Brien, who is also the starting center fielder on the Abbott Tech baseball team. “I wake up every day and I thank God for giving me the chance to be able to play, and my family and my coaches for always supporting me.”
It’s a tremendous opportunity — an opportunity which may not have come about had it not been for the ouside-the-box thinking of a handful of individuals at the two crosstown rival schools, and the collective leap of faith by students and parents at both schools to support the daring endeavor. Both schools’ football programs had fallen on hard times, and by the fall of 2013, neither had enough players on its team to field a full 11-on-11 scrimmage at practice. The schools are only separated by several miles of downtown Danbury, but they’re vastly different from one another. Immaculate is a private, Roman-Catholic college preparatory school, and Abbott Tech is a public, technical school.
However, it soon became evident that, in order for both teams to survive, they would have to work together.
And as a testament to the cooperative efforts of the two school communities, the ATI football team has been an undeniable success. In its inaugural season of 2014, the United narrowly missed qualifying for the eight-team Class M state playoffs, finishing ninth in the state playoff rankings.
For two schools whose programs were in jeopardy only a few months earlier, that was a big deal.
The following year, the United broke through and qualified for the Class M state playoffs. Not even a loss to Brookfield in the state quarterfinals could put a damper on what ATI had accomplished in two short years.
“With two schools coming together, it was a challenge,” O’Brien said. “It was something we had to get ready for. But we came together as a team, and it has helped prepare me for college to be able to compete with others and earn my spot and try to do my best to help the team.”
In its four seasons as a co-op, ATI has posted a 30-12 record.
“I think we’ve been doing pretty well,” said ATI coach Rich Holmes, who was the head coach at Abbott Tech prior to the merger. “The program has been good for both of us.”
And yet, perhaps ATI’s greatest victory has been the handful of quality football players it has groomed for the college game. O’Brien isn’t the first, and he certainly won’t be the last. A key contributor since his freshman season in 2014, O’Brien has amassed for 1,709 career rushing yards. In his final game in ATI black-and-silver, O’Brien rushed for five touchdowns in a 48-6 triumph over the Wolcott Tech co-op this past Thanksgiving.
“He is the all-time leading rusher for ATI, and he’s done a variety of things,” Holmes said. “Heck, he played defensive end, nose guard, outside linebacker and strong safety on defense. His first step is as explosive as anybody I’ve ever coached.”
Thanks to the ATI co-op, the world got to see that explosive first step.
And O’Brien will get to make the step to college football.