Freshman quarterback Partrick O'Brien (12) and junior QB Tanner Lee (13) are good friends and top candidates to start next season.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Two Faces of 2017 Husker Team Share a QB Bond

By NU Athletic Communications

Social Recap of Nebraska Football Hospital Visit

Randy York

Official Blog of the Huskers

As Nebraska counts down to Friday’s regular-season finale kickoff in its annual Heroes Game at Iowa, a thought-provoking sight emerged Wednesday morning at Lincoln’s Nebraska Heart Hospital.

No. 13 Tanner Lee, a junior quarterback from Destrehan, La. (via transfer from Tulane), and No. 12 Patrick O'Brien, a freshman quarterback from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., were in the same hospital room signing a jersey for a patient.

Neither quarterback will play in Friday’s 2:30 p.m. nationally televised game on ABC, but both are the primary candidates to replace four-year starter Tommy Armstrong Jr. in 2017.

In Nebraska football's 23rd consecutive year of hospital visits, the Heart Hospital was one of five Husker locations in community outreach the day before Thanksgiving, and it became immediately obvious that these two most likely successors to replace Armstrong will compete with class and respect.

“People kind of know their names and know Tanner and Patrick are pretty good quarterbacks, but I don’t think they realize that both are very, very talented and will be very fun to watch next year,” said Nebraska senior wide receiver Brandon Reilly.

“Tanner’s a little older, so I know him better,” Reilly said. “We hang around together as friends. It’s seems like I’ve known Tanner for 10 years, and I’ve only known him for 10 months. He’s pretty good back there on scout team. It’ll be tough for me not being able to play for this team next year. It’s going to be fun watching both quarterbacks compete for the job.”

Brown: Tanner and Patrick are Tremendous Young Men; They’re Great Teammates

Nebraska place kicker Drew Brown shares the same mindset. “Tanner and Patrick are tremendous young men for sure,” Brown said. “They’re great teammates and they treat everyone the way they want to be treated. They’re just as talented as any guy out there. No matter who leads the team next year, I know that we’ll be in good hands. There are good reasons why both those guys are here. I trust them with everything I have, and I’m glad they’ll be a part of this.”

Both quarterbacks, who are equally qualified to succeed a multi-record-breaking Armstrong, were totally focused on Wednesday’s task at end – lift up the hearts and minds of Heart Hospital patients, relatives, staff and children who idolize their Saturday heroes.

Well aware that both quarterbacks are primary candidates to start, Lee sees the competition in nothing but positive terms. “Whenever there’s quarterback competition, the media likes to follow that pretty close,” he said. “Patrick and I are competing for the same job, but we’re also good friends, so I it’s going to be a lot of fun.

“We hang out together all the time, and I think we’ll pull for each other just like we do now when we help each other. That’s a strength for both of us,” Lee said. “Doing something like visiting a hospital together keeps us close. Visiting a hospital does make a nice day for those coming in and those who are there, especially during a holiday.

“It’s extremely rewarding for a big school with the platforms that we have to use those platforms and reach out to the community,” Lee said. “All of us who come to Nebraska know that Life Skills is a big part of the territory. We’re expected to do these kinds of things, and the first time you do, you realize how important it really is. It’s nice to have an impact on others, but they have an impact on us, too.”

Patrick O’Brien also has a tight grip and an appreciative understanding of the importance and relevance of Life Skills that are woven into competitive athletics. The first words he used to describe visiting a hospital with his teammates was how “obviously important it is to all of us,” he said. “The Nebraska fan base is amazing. When people are kind of down and times are kind rough right now, we owe it to them to help brighten their day. Our fans give us so much support. They deserve getting ours.”

O’Brien Excited about the Future; Good Friends Anticipating a Fun Season Next Year

O’Brien believes both are good quarterbacks, “so we’ll be in good hands either way,” he said. “I’m really excited to see how it goes. We’re good friends. All the quarterbacks are friends with each other, so it’s going to be a fun season next year.”

Here’s the kicker. Without prodding, O’Brien said “Nebraska’s Life Skills program definitely played a part in me coming here. When I came on my official visit, they showed me everything they do in Life Skills.

“Giving back to the community was something I wanted to be a part of because it’s special to me. It was a no-brainer because you can add that on to everything else Nebraska is known for.

“Nebraska is a good fit for me. Before I came here, I volunteered with NEGU to encourage children with cancer to Never Ever Give Up. When you can help people smile in a hospital, it works both ways.”

The same principle applied to Husker football players who visited four other hospitals on on Wednesday – St. Elizabeth’s Regional Medical Center, Veteran's Administration Hospital, Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital and Bryan LGH East Hospital.

The visits provided players an opportunity to interact with patients, as well as show their thanks and appreciation for the unmatched fan support that they receive. It was a perfect way to start the Thanksgiving weekend.

Everyone Has Their Own Story and They’re Something You Can Relate To

Brandon Reilly has a friend who underwent a five-hour surgery at Heart Hospital. “Everyone has their own story and they’re something you can relate to,” he said. “You feel for the patients. They love it when we come by, but it’s really a just matter of returning the favor.

“At this time of the year, we all have nicks and bruises, but when you walk into a hospital, it makes those bruises go away pretty quick compared to what these people go through. I’m glad we can brighten their day a little bit because they brighten ours.

Drew Brown said hospital visits “never get old because wherever we go, it’s uplifting for everyone. Seeing the smiles on people’s faces works both ways. To see them fighting every day strengthens us. We can feel Sam (Foltz’s) influence every day. It’s all about caring for each other as well caring for others. No matter what we do, we can still feel him. He has an effect on us.”

Sam Cotton (No. 84 two photos above with fellow senior Reilly, No. 87) agrees with his teammates. “We’re four months into the season,"  Cotton said. “We’re all hurting a little bit, but when you come around here, you see real things that people are going through. All of a sudden, those bruises on your hips and your sore knees don’t look so bad anymore.

“During the holidays, we look at our football team as our family,” Cotton said. “To be around our family and other families today gives you that warmth in your heart that you miss when you can’t go home to see your own family. So all of this is good for us, too. We want to put an exclamation point on this season, and we’re focused on each other. Contributing to this team has meant a lot to me. Friday will be the 48th game I’ve played here, so I’m thinking we really need to get that Big Ten Championship game in there, so I can hit that 50 milestone.”

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