Hindsight makes the decision look easy.
It wasn't four years ago.
Nick O'Brien could have stayed with Wyoming Area's freshman program, where he would certainly tear apart opposing defenses consisting of kids his own age. Or he could jump up to the varsity, where as the only freshman he would be battling experienced teammates just to get on the field.
O'Brien chose the latter and ran all the way into the Wyoming Area record books. And to a spot on the Class 2A all-state team. And to the Times Leader Player of the Year honors.
It was pretty tough, O'Brien said. Honestly, when I was a freshman, I wasn't too sure about moving up. I didn't think I'd get that much playing time because of the kids ahead of me, or who I felt were ahead of me at the positions I played.
I made the decision to go up. I worked in practice and worked my way into a starting position on defense. Then throughout the season, with injuries and everything, I moved into the offense a little bit. It was probably the greatest decision I ever made.
His final rushing totals – 5,175 yards according to school records – verify that. The total is the most ever by a Warrior in a program that played its first game in 1966. It is also the third-most in Wyoming Valley Conference history behind only Williamsport's Darrell Blackmon (6,804) and Pittston Area's Matt Pisano (5,694).
O'Brien started in the secondary as a freshman. As the season wore on, he received more opportunities to carry the ball as a running back. And although Wyoming Area finished 2-8 that year, O'Brien gained valuable experience that would turn around the team's fortunes the next three years.
As a sophomore, he topped the 1,000-yard mark at running back in helping the Warriors to the Eastern Conference Class 2A championship game. He moved to quarterback as a junior and rushed for over 1,200 yards during the regular season as Wyoming Area advance to the District 2 Class 2A title game.
As a senior, O'Brien led the entire WVC in scoring with 156 points. He rushed for 1,437 yards and 21 touchdowns during the regular season, and his passer rating of 190.85 led all quarterbacks. He also returned three punts and an interception for touchdowns.
For all the accomplishments, the highlight of his career came the last time he stepped on the school's football field.
O'Brien scored all three touchdowns and rushed for 135 yards as Wyoming Area defeated Lakeland 20-7 for this year's District 2 Class 2A championship. It was the school's first district title in football since 2003.
It was the first district championship we had in football in a long time, close to 10 years, O'Brien said. All the fans and my teammates running around on the field, that was probably the most memorable thing when I think about it.
The offensive numbers obscured another aspect of O'Brien's game – defense. As a defensive back, he finished second on the team with 107 tackles and was considered one of the hardest hitters in the WVC.
Colleges took notice, and O'Brien will play in the secondary next season at Bucknell University. The 5-foot-10, 180-pounder made a verbal commitment during the season.
Army, Brown, Delaware, New Hampshire, Princeton, Richmond and Villanova were other programs in the running for his services.
I really pride myself on defense, O'Brien said. I like to come up and stick my nose in as much as a can, get as many hard hits as a can. It sets the tone for me running the ball also.