Welcome to the 2021 FCS Jersey Countdown.
Leading up to Week 0 games on Aug. 28, HERO Sports is going to name the best returning FCS player by jersey number, 99-0. Due to rosters being updated at different times for teams across the country and to keep things consistent, jersey numbers are based on the 2020 fall-2021 spring season.
Note: Jersey numbers are based on 2020 fall-2021 spring rosters.
58: Patrick O’Connell, LB (Jr.) — Montana
Montana’s defense had plenty of star power in 2019 with linebackers Jace Lewis and Dante Olson and safety Robby Hauck (Lewis and Hauck are back this fall). An underrated part of that defense was O’Connell, who was fifth on the team in tackles (56), fourth in tackles for loss (7.5), and the team leader with 6.5 sacks.
It’s a great story of believing in yourself for the Kalispell, Montana, native.
He began his college career in 2017 at Division II University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. He decided to leave the school and a scholarship to walk on at Montana. O’Connell earned respect in his redshirt season with the Griz in 2018, being named the Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year.
He climbed the depth chart from there, playing in all 14 games in 2019 with eight starts.
O’Connell will be an important part of Montana’s quest to be a national title contender this year.
“We need some development at linebacker. It’s probably our youngest group, and we need some of those young guys to come on, and frankly, we need some of our more veteran players to improve their play. So, to me, the linebacker position is probably one of the biggest question marks on the team right now,” Bobby Hauck said. “But I’m confident the work those guys are putting in and the ability level will lend itself to us being solid there.”