Michael O'Connor, a 6-foot-5, 205-pound junior from Ottawa is coming to Baylor School and will compete for the Red Raiders' starting quarterback job.
Although he has just one year of varsity experience, playing in Canada's capital city, O'Connor has been one of the fastest rising prospects in this summer's recruiting camp circuit, including an Elite-11 region camp in Columbus, Ohio. He performed well enough at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp near Detroit, against mostly rising seniors, to earn recognition on Rivals.com's home page last week and a scholarship offer from Michigan State this week.
O'Connor, who just turned 16, also has offers from Mississippi State, Buffalo and Toledo and is drawing serious interest from Vanderbilt and Michigan. He will enroll at Baylor on July 9, in time to begin working with the Red Raiders in 7-on-7 camps.
"He's legit," said Baylor coach Phil Massey, who has seen O'Connor highlights on YouTube. "You don't get the offers he already has by being average. Now, I haven't seen him take a live snap or throw it in person, so you're always a little apprehensive about heaping too much praise on a kid, but he certainly looks the part on film. And judging by what the college scouts think of him, we're eager to see what he can do."
After last year's starter, Matthew Oellerich, graduated, there was little depth at the quarterback position for the Red Raiders, who have played in the last two Division II-AA state finals. Sophomore Nick Tiano is expected to compete with O'Connor for the starting job.
On several plays in his highlight package, O'Connor can be seen throwing the ball 50 yards and hitting his targets in stride. However, there will be a transition to the United States brand of football for the recently turned 16-year-old, who threw for 51 touchdowns with just seven interceptions in leading his team to an undefeated record last season.
Canadian football fields are 20 yards longer and 7 yards wider than the measurements for an American field.
"I know the game will be a lot faster than I'm used to, but I feel I can adjust," O'Connor said Tuesday. "I'm actually looking forward to competing and proving that I can play with Americans. I feel like all my hard work is paying off with this opportunity.
"I'm really excited after learning how serious football is taken in the South, and Chattanooga particularly. In Canada the most I've ever played in front of is about 200 people."
College coaches from Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Michigan and Michigan State have requested that he attend their camps this month.
While most college prospect quarterbacks have had individual tutoring on throwing mechanics and footwork for years, O'Connor said he is completely self-taught. He said he would imitate the footwork and throwing motion of NFL quarterbacks and pick up tips online from YouTube clips.
To fulfill the potential he and many college scouts feel he has, O'Connor realized he would have to leave home and transfer to an American program, where he would receive better coaching and be teamed with other players as serious about the game, and their future in it, as he is. The family began looking at boarding schools last spring and visited several -- in California, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Atlanta -- before deciding on Baylor.
"My family and I fell in love with Chattanooga," O'Connor said. "The people there were very friendly to us, and I like the fact that it's not too big or too small. I know it's going to be tough moving away from my family, but sometimes you have to sacrifice in life to reach your dream."
Said Massey: "We were told he was pretty serious about football and the game wasn't as serious in Canada, so his family wanted a good academic school and a good football program. We feel very fortunate that our school is out there on the national radar. We like competition, and now we'll have really good competition at a very important position."