Patrick O’Donnell grew up in the prime era of University of Miami football. He watched and admired the All-Americans, the record-setting amount of top draft picks and the BCS national championships. He was raised a Hurricane.
Now O’Donnell is truly part of the Hurricane football family. The former Palm Beach Central High School punter is returning home to South Florida, where he will join the Miami football team after four years at the University of Cincinnati.
“I’ve always been a Hurricanes fan, listening to them on the weekends growing up. It’s pretty much embedded into my family,” O’Donnell said. “Watching the great players come from this program, it’s exciting to be a part of it.”
O’Donnell graduated from Cincinnati and, because of a fifth year of eligibility, is able to transfer to Miami, where he will receive a master’s degree in liberal arts.
O’Donnell was the first-team punter when UM head coach Al Golden released the Hurricanes depth chart on April 16.
The PBCHS alum is also one of 25 players on the “watch list” for the 2013 Ray Guy Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate punter.
Although he has already had such success, O’Donnell is actually fairly new to kicking. He began playing football in high school as a tight end and linebacker.
It wasn’t until his junior season, when he saw Wellington’s Matt DiLallo receive a scholarship to the University of Colorado, that he saw a future in kicking. As a senior, O’Donnell earned first-team all-state and all-district honors, and was the co-winner of the 2008 Lou Groza Award, given to the top kicker in Palm Beach County.
That season, he was part of the first winning team in PBCHS history. He made sure of it by kicking a game-winning field goal against Boynton Beach High School in overtime in the last game of the season. “I just remember we had a great coach, Rod Harris, who brought that team together,” O’Donnell said. “It prepared me a lot… I think it definitely prepared me for college ball and to play at that high level of competition and to excel.”
Travis Simmons was the Broncos’ quarterback at the time. He also held O’Donnell’s field goal attempts, including that last game against Boynton Beach.
The Broncos were down three points with less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. O’Donnell made a 40-plus yarder to force overtime. He later hit a go-ahead field goal in overtime to give the Broncos the lead for good.
“Pat was a great teammate on and off the field and took football very seriously,” Simmons said. “He made everyone around him better when it came to both football and academics. Pat and I spent a lot of time hanging out and going to kicking camps during the off season. Every game Pat kicked he was automatic and made very few mistakes.”
O’Donnell was lured to Cincinnati by the success of the UC program (they had just won the Orange Bowl) and by head coach Brian Kelly. At UC, O’Donnell was first team All-Big East in 2011, averaging 43.8 yards per punt. He was UC’s primary punter for the past three seasons, averaging 42.6-yards a punt. In his four years as a Bearcat, UC won the Big East three times.
Now he’s happy to be home, and especially to once again be on the same field as Shane McDermott, another former Bronco playing at UM. “It’s exciting to get back in the same locker room as him,” O’Donnell said. “He was one of my good friends at Palm Beach Central and good friends period growing up. Hopefully I can ACC championship with him this year.”
ABOVE: Palm Beach Central alum Patrick O’Donnell practices his kick. He will play for the University of Miami next season.