John O’Connor is the tackling machine of a linebacker at Mandeville High School from Mandeville, Louisiana. John, listed at 6’0′ 205 pounds, has the record for most tackles in a season for Class 5A (196) and could have had even more. He is extremely consistent making tackles, but prides himself in his coverage ability between sidelines. I found it impressive that he is also strong and versatile enough to play outside linebacker and effectively pass rush. John has a non-stop motor and holds himself to the highest standards on the field, making him an ideal leader in the middle of any defense.
How long have you been playing football?
My first year was in 5th grade, I used to play rec ball.
What do you think is one of your biggest accomplishments since he started playing football?
Honestly my biggest accomplishment would probably be off of the field and that would be the relationships that I’ve established in the friendships I’ve gained. Right now I can probably say the only people I hang out with are my teammates outside of like school and when I’m with my family. So, although it’s not on the field, I would say that that’s probably something that I consider my biggest accomplishment.
How was last season for you and your team?
For me it was great, I led the state and tackles will the 196 and we made it to the quarterfinals as a team.
What kind of expectations do you have for yourself and for the team this year?
For myself, I’m trying to raise the bar even higher and I don’t want to miss a single tackle. I didn’t miss a ton compared to the amount that I made last year, but it still bothers me the amount that I missed. I probably could have had somewhere close to 220 + tackles if I wouldn’t have missed any so that’s why I’m trying to be this year. For the team, I mean our goal is ultimately the state championship, it’s pretty obvious, but I think we have the talent for it and that’s where we want to be and that’s where I expect that we’re going to be.
Is there anybody that you’ve watched that you try to model your game after?
So, I’m a Saints fan and I watch a lot of Demario Davis. I love how he plays. I love how he’s able to cover from sideline to sideline and I feel like that’s probably my biggest strength as a linebacker so I look up to him as a player.
What do you think you should improve on the most?
Probably my footwork in the Box. My sophomore year I was still playing safety and I wasn’t used to playing in the box, so last year was a pretty big transition for me and I think I just need to clean up my footwork to make sure I’m more comfortable and able to make more plays inside the tackle box.
What kind of things do you like to do in your free time?
I like to fish and work out. If I have time I like to shoot guns with my friends, safely of course.
Do you or have you played any other sports other than football?
I played a lot actually. When I was younger, my main sport was tennis and a little bit of basketball. When I finished up with basketball, baseball became my main sport and I thought I was going to go to college for that but in the 5th grade my dad introduced me to football and a few years later I stop playing baseball all together and focus on football. My sophomore year I started doing track and field and threw the javelin. I broke a record for throwing Javelin and placed 3rd in state that year. Obviously because of the pandemic, I wasn’t able to really do track and field my junior year but I look forward to attempting to do it again this year following football season.
So it seems like you played a lot of other sports but since you’ve quit so many have you ever considered going back and playing any of them?
I’ve definitely considered going back and playing baseball. I feel like I was really good at it and anyone who watch me felt the same way, I’ve considered going back this year playing my last year in high school just for the fun of it.
How have you stayed in shape since the beginning of the pandemic ?
I just continued eating right working out and running as much as I can to try to stay strong and in good shape.
Would you say you love the most about playing football ?
There’s a few things. First, like I mentioned earlier, would be the friendships that I’ve built. Also I love that it is one of the most competitive sports out there I like how you have to be so well-rounded to succeed at the sport and I appreciate that fact.
How do you get yourself ready for a game on game days?
I try to just stay calm throughout most of the day, I don’t want to get hyped up too early in the morning because I feel like I can’t keep that same energy the entire day. But I just try to stay focused and think about the assignments I’m going to have to do and stay on task and then I try to just get in that mindset right before kick-off.
How would you describe yourself as a player and a teammate?
Personally, I think I’m normally more of a follower than a leader but for my team, I’ve had to take on a leadership role. My team-mates needed it and my coaches have talked to me about it and encouraged that I take it on and I feel like I’ve finally started stepping up to become the leader that my team needs. I think I started coming out of my shell.
What do you think stands out the most about your game?
I play fast, I read well and I think I am very good at covering from sideline to sideline. I’m also very determined and I never stop pursuing.
What is your biggest motivation for continuing to play football?
Probably my dad, he introduced me to the sport and he’s helped me stay in it and succeed. Another thing is this is my senior year and I’ve been playing with my teammates since freshman year and I want to play for them just like they want to play for me. We all want to win, we all want to do great things. I don’t want to let them or my coaching staff or my father down.
What are you up to get out of playing football when it’s all said and done?
I just want to be able to have fun memories to look back on and enjoy all the times I played and every second that I’ve done it. I want to make sure that I can earn a scholarship so I don’t have to pay any student fees; I want a free education and I just want to keep playing until I physically can’t anymore.