When the whistle blows and the play is over, Ryan O’Shea is nowhere to be found.
You can’t miss him when you watch MacArthur’s football team in person. Assuming your eyes work and your head swivels, you’ll see the Generals’ 6-0, 235-pound lineman punishing imposing defenders all over the field. But a camera’s scope captures only so much real estate.
“When you’re watching film, he’s on the screen with the kid he’s blocking and then all of a sudden both are gone,” coach Bobby Fehrenbach said. “He just takes them right off the screen. A lot of kids, they make their block and go, ‘Alright, I’m good.’ He just keeps going until he hears the whistle.”
Though the whistle has sounded on his high school football playing days, O’Shea still has not come to a halt. He has quickly transitioned back to the wrestling mat for his fifth varsity season, allotting time for visits with the Division III football programs courting him.
And on Wednesday night, the Nassau County Football Coaches Association granted him the Martone Award as the county’s top two-way lineman.
“It shows how much work the coaches put into me for four years now,” O’Shea said. “Everything that everyone’s ever done for me in my football career, that’s what it’s for.”
In 2016, O’Shea recorded 33 tackles, two sacks and one forced fumble. His four-year totals at MacArthur include 146 tackles, nine sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, one interception and one touchdown.
And that says nothing about his value to the offense’s production. Fehrenbach said the Generals (5-4) directed about 75 percent of their running plays toward O’Shea, whose 40 games played are the most in MacArthur history, according to the coach.
Ever since he made varsity as a freshman, O’Shea’s calm but confident presence has inspired his teammates and coaching staff. “He’s not a rah-rah guy,” Fehrenbach said. “He’s not going to fire up the troops and rally the troops, but he just leads by example working to the whistle. It’s just that drive and hard work.”
O’Shea played middle linebacker as a freshman before moving to the line as a sophomore and becoming a Martone Award finalist as a junior.
During training camp this past August, Fehrenbach felt more comfortable sending O’Shea back to linebacker because of his team’s personnel.
O’Shea, who said he prefers to have his “hands in the dirt” as a lineman, did not complain.
Said Fehrenbach, “Probably in most kids’ heads [would be], ‘Hey, all the other linemen left that were finalists [for the Martone Award] last year. I’ve got a pretty good shot at it this year. I could win the award.’ He doesn’t even hesitate or say, ‘Hey, coach, Martone is something I really have my sights set on.’ ”
“I just wanted to step up, play for the team,” O’Shea said. “Wherever they needed me, I would play.”
The whistle blew on the experiment after a game or two. After that, everyone knew where to find O’Shea. Until he went off screen.
Said Fehrenbach, “It was a pleasure watching him.”