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UND senior captain retires from football due to injuries

North Dakota’s Connor O’Brien blocks the punt of Idaho State’s Sean Cheney in a Big Sky football game Saturday in Grand Forks. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald

UND senior captain Connor O'Brien has decided to retire from football due to injuries, Fighting Hawks coach Bubba Schweigert said Wednesday morning.

O'Brien had started 18 straight games at inside linebacker and was third on the team in tackles in 2016 with 67.

The Lemont, Ill., native also had 6.0 tackles for loss and an interception in 2016.

"After he returned from spring break, he had consulted with his parents, our medical people, his medical people, and he's decided not to have football be part of his future," Schweigert said. "We support him in his decision. It's a medical concern for his future."

Schweigert said the team plans to have O'Brien on the field in a mentoring role throughout the rest of spring ball and next season.

"We're going to have him involved because he's important in terms of leadership and knowledge of our defense," Schweigert said. "He's just a really good guy to have on your team."

UND will now be without all four starting linebackers from the 2016 season, as outside linebackers Jawon Johnson and Brian Labat and inside linebacker Dylan Bakker were seniors.

Schweigert said O'Brien's decision was difficult for him.

"He loves to play," Schweigert said. "His passion is obvious. He was looking forward to his senior season and had a good winter. Unfortunately, it's best after talking to professionals to forego his senior season."

Tom Miller

Miller has been with the Grand Forks Herald sports department for the past 13 years. He's also a Grand Forks native and UND graduate. 

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