Freshman Sean O’Malley will start at quarterback for Lafayette in Saturday’s opener at Monmouth. (Photo courtesy Lafayette College)
The good news for Lafayette football fans is that Sean O’Malley looks to be a capable and skilled leader ready to start his college career as a quarterback with a strong performance in the season-opener Saturday (3 p.m.) at Monmouth.
The even better news for Leopard boosters is that O’Malley won a rugged battle among a crowded field of standouts for the starting gig.
“All of these freshmen quarterbacks did really well,” said Lafayette head coach John Garrett at the team’s weekly media luncheon on College Hill. “Sometimes even with pros, they find it hard to come in and call the plays in a new offense. These guys had it down quickly. I told them, ‘You guys are unbelievable. It’s the kind of smart student-athletes who are able to come to Lafayette.”
So to emerge as the best from a top crop bodes well for the 6-foot-2, 200-pound native of Beverly Hills, Calif., who was not available for comment Tuesday.
“Sean made it clear by his play that he earned the job,” said Garrett, who is his own offensive coordinator. “He performed consistently well in every situation and earned the respect of his teammates. I have great confidence that he’ll play well and lead the team Saturday.”
O’Malley, a graduate of Loyola High School of Los Angeles, came to Lafayette via an unusual path. He was not part of the scholarship Class of 2021 and committed to the Leopards in the spring.
“One of the great ways to build a team in college football is with walk-ons,” Garrett said. “Sean was able to investigate Lafayette and found out about our program and went through the (admission) process like anyone else. We got to know him, did research on him, and talked to his high school coach. It’s very clear he loves football and that (football) is important to him. He made it clear he wanted to come here and it was fortunate his family situation allowed him to attend Lafayette.”
O’Malley’s start in the non-league opener at Monmouth will make some recent history for the Leopards.
He will become the first Leopard frosh to start a season opener since 1986 when Lafayette joined the Colonial (later Patriot) League.
As if there’s not enough pressure overall, O’Malley will be the first visiting starting quarterback at Monmouth’s brand-new Kessler Field at Monmouth Stadium, where emotions are, and will be, running high for the Hawks.
“There is a lot of excitement here as we open a much-needed new facility,” said 25-year Monmouth head coach (the only coach the Hawks have ever had) Kevin Callahan via conference call. “We’re especially excited to play our first game there.”
O’Malley, who will be backed up by fellow frosh Cole Northrup, has the pedigree to handle most football situations, though. He graduated from Loyola as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards (4,192) and touchdowns (32). He also ran for 540 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“He is a hard worker and very intelligent as a quarterback,” said Loyola head coach Rick Pedroarias via email. “I was consistently impressed with his poise during a game. He knew when to throw the ball and when to tuck it and run. He is a superior runner as a quarterback. Moreover, he is the epitome of a team player.”
In fact, Garrett said his high school experience proved important to win the Lafayette starting nod.
“One thing that is important for quarterbacks to be versatile,” Garrett said. “Sean had film of being under center and film of being in the shotgun. We’re multiple that way, and it’s important to have a guy with that experience. There are guys who go to the NFL after playing quarterback for four years in high school and four years in college and have never called a play in the huddle or taken a snap under center because they play in no-huddle spread offenses. We like to put our quarterbacks in different positions and Sean had experience of doing that so that was an advantage.”
You get the idea, though, that O’Malley could prosper in any offense.,
“Sean is a natural leader,” Garrett said. “He prepares well; he has an impressive demeanor. He’s ready to compete.”
Brad Wilson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bradwsports