Nevada Wolf Pack wide receiver Brendan O’Leary-Orange is grateful to be back on the field again this season.
The junior receiver was taken off on a stretcher after landing awkwardly on his neck and collarbone during the third quarter of Nevada’s 37-35 win over Oregon State Saturday, Sept. 15. O’Leary-Orange laid on the field for over 10 minutes before he was rushed to the hospital, where he remained alert and conscious throughout the night.
“I really need to thank God at the end of the day,” he said. “All glory goes to him for being able to walk, play football again and just being able to function normally.”
According to head coach Jay Norvell during a press conference on Sept. 17, various tests as well as a CAT scan on O’Leary-Orange came back negative. He passed concussion protocol and returned to action against the Air Force Falcons Saturday, Sept. 29.
O’Leary-Orange returned to his old self, snagging two receptions for 39 yards including a 30-yard leaping touchdown catch in the back corner of the end zone. The Wolf Pack went on to beat Air Force 28-25 for their first road victory under Norvell.
“That play let me know it was a real blessing to play the game again,” he said. “I know I probably scared everybody with that injury. I even scared myself a bit when I realized what happened.”
A native of Toronto, Canada, O’Leary-Orange finished with 14 receptions for 214 yards and four touchdowns in 10 games this season. His bulky six-foot four-inch frame created separation down the sidelines or breaking off a route to the middle of the field. He’s joined by fellow teammates Elijah Cooks and Kaleb Fossum to lead a high-octane receiving corps.
“We’ve really grown as a group and really gelled together,” he said. “Being in the room together, we start acting like brothers and mess with each other sometimes and it brings us even closer. And I feel like that’s what has really sparked us offensively this season.”
O’Leary-Orange also picked apart the differences between quarterbacks Ty Gangi and Cristian Solano, who made his first collegiate start in a 21-3 loss to Fresno State on Oct. 3.
“They’re both great competitors and great quarterbacks, and (shit) I’ve got nothing bad to say about either of them. I will go to battle with them any day of the week.” he said.
When healthy, O’Leary-Orange wasn’t featured on the field as much throughout the season. He was often substituted on third down packages, but he came down with some crucial catches to keep drives alive.
The departure of receiver McLane Mannix has left a gaping hole in the depth chart, and O’Leary-Orange is focused on playing a full season and stepping up in his absence heading into his senior season. For now, O’Leary-Orange’s full attention is on Nevada’s upcoming Arizona Bowl matchup against the Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“We just need to come together as a team and collect our thoughts,” he said. “And we just need to work hard the rest of this week and keep that same mindset going forward.”
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.