Casey O'Brien makes his college football debut with the University of Minnesota

The redshirt sophomore had his head coach and teammates in tears after serving as the holder on three extra points.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

It took enduring 14 surgeries and months of chemotherapy for University of Minnesota football player Casey O'Brien to experience the most euphoric 10 seconds of his life on Saturday.

The four-time cancer survivor had his head coach and teammates in tears when he made his dream of playing in his first college football game come true.

The redshirt sophomore served as the holder on three extra points in the fourth quarter of the undefeated Golden Gophers' 42-7 win over Rutgers in New Jersey.

"It means the world to me," O'Brien told the Big Ten Network after the game. "There's been so many ups-and-downs — nights in the hospitals and surgeries and everything like that — that's gone into this moment. This is what I dreamed about, and tonight, it got to come true."

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What normally would be a mundane moment in a lopsided game became one that Minnesota and O'Brien will never forget when he took the snap early in the fourth quarter and spun the laces out for a perfect hold as kicker Michael Lantz booted the extra point through the uprights.

O'Brien was mobbed by his jubilant teammates and then shared a long hug with head coach P.J. Fleck, who offered him a walk-on roster spot out of high school.

"He's an unbelievable person, and he's been through an awful lot," Fleck told Big Ten Network. "When you think courage, you think Casey O'Brien. When you think row the boat, you think our program.

"You think the University of Minnesota and our state of Minnesota, you think Casey O'Brien. No one can ever take away that he played college football in the Big Ten. No one can ever take that away from him."

The 20-year-old's parents also flew from their home in Minnesota to New Jersey to see the magical moment in person.

O’Brien was a freshman quarterback at Minnesota's Cretin-Derham Hall in 2013 when he was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the same bone cancer that claimed the life of inspirational Purdue football fan Tyler Trent in January.

The cancer returned three more times, requiring more than 200 days in the hospital, numerous rounds of chemotherapy and 14 surgeries, including three on each lung and a knee replacement.

O'Brien, whose cancer has been in remission for a year, received a minute-long standing ovation for his inspiring speech at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon in July in which he detailed his cancer journey, according to the Pioneer Press.

He was treated for two bouts of cancer in high school and then another two as a freshman at Minnesota in 2017.

"Once again I would not let it stop me," O’Brien said in his speech. “I took chemo pills before every practice in my first spring ball. Did not miss a practice. I spent all of last season wearing a specially made shirt with a pad sewn into it to protect a medical port in my chest for treatment I was receiving. Did not miss a practice."

O'Brien had to change positions from quarterback to holder because doctors said he could not play a position where he could potentially take a hit. He served as the backup holder before seeing his first game action on Saturday.

Casey O'Brien was initially a quarterback but had to change positions since he couldn't play in one that was susceptible to hits.Hannah Foslien / Getty Images

“It was a lot of emotion,” O’Brien told the Pioneer Press. “It was a moment and a night that I’ve been thinking about since I picked up a football.

"Everything I’ve been through myself, with everything at the hospital and going through cancer four times, it was worth it tonight."