When you really think about it, Penn State has been fortunate to have a nice string of successful football coaches dating back to 1900. No full-time Nittany Lion coach in that time has possessed a win percentage below .556 (Tom Bradley, of course, went 1-2 during his tenure on the sidelines of the Blue and White).
Of course, many people will argue that the best coach during that period of time has been Joe Paterno, and they're almost certainly all correct. However, one former Nittany Lion star doesn't think that Joe Pa was the best coach during his time in Happy Valley. According to an interview with HoustonTexans.com, human heat-seeking missile Mike Hull thinks that Bill O'Brien was the best coach he ever played under. Yes, that includes the winningest coach in D-I history.
"I still say to this day, he’s the best coach I’ve ever had," Penn State alum and inside linebacker Mike Hull said. "I have so much respect for him and he knows so much about the game of football, always taught me a lot about the X’s and O’s in situational football and can’t thank him enough for it."
Here is some more O'Brien praise, from Adrian Amos and Deion Barnes:
"He came in, he brought an NFL mindset," Amos said. "He got me prepared for the things like this. How to carry myself, what to expect on the next level. It was a great experience and he was the right guy for the job."
"We loved him there, defensive end Deion Barnes said. "He’s a business-like coach, gets it done, as he does with the Texans. We love him. He’s the type of coach we all rallied behind. We wanted to win for him, for sure."
Now, Hull's comments will probably get some people mad. Not only is Paterno the most revered coach in school history and quite possibly the best college football coach ever, but O'Brien left a sour taste in the mouth of a lot of fans with the way that he left the school to take the Texans' job in 2013. Hull, of course, is one of the few players who played under each of Penn State's last three head coaches. His redshirt and freshman years were spent under the Paterno regime, he spent his sophomore and junior seasons under O'Brien and he thrived as a senior under James Franklin.
Do consider this when you read Hull's comments: as a redshirt/freshman, he barely had an impact, and probably wasn't exactly a top priority for his octogenarian head coach. As a senior, Hull had developed into a great linebacker and didn't need much coaching. But as a sophomore/junior, he was part of one of the most tightly-knit teams in college football history and played under a coach who was known for being incredibly close to his players (hell, just look at what Amos and Barnes had to say about O'Brien, it sounds like everyone on those teams would walk through hell in a gasoline suit for him).
And yeah, some people are going to be upset that Hull said this, but even the most passionate anti-O'Brien person cannot deny that he is an absolutely brilliant X's and O's coach (related: congrats on coming in second in Coach of the Year voting, OB!) who cared about preparation above everything else. This, of course, is something that will resonate with any college player who has aspirations of playing in the NFL.
Here's to hoping that Hull and O'Brien are reunited in Houston next year. And Amos and O'Brien. And Barnes and O'Brien. And Donovan Smith/Jesse James and O'Brien. Let's just get every Penn Stater onto Houston so we can all cheer for the same football team together.