Kevin O’Connell is the Rams’ offensive coordinator, which isn’t tough for Tom Craft to comprehend.
“I’m not shocked by his elevation in that profession at all,” Craft said. “He always has impressed me.”
O’Connell, the former La Costa Canyon High star, recently began his first training camp with Los Angeles.
Craft, the former San Diego State and Palomar College coach, started training O’Connell when he was a Carlsbad teenager going to junior high.
“I used to work with him at Palomar College once or twice a week,” Craft said. “Then when I went to San Diego State, we obviously had our eye on him.”
Craft recruited O’Connell, a two-sport prep star. O’Connell seized his dribble to focus on football and it was a slam-dunk of a decision.
O’Connell, a four-year team captain with the SDSU, was selected by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2008 draft. He also played with the Detroit Lions, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and San Diego Chargers.
While in pads, the cerebral O’Connell was already considering life after snaps. Coaching was the appropriate route for O’Connell and he’s quickly zooming up the NFL ladder.
Although O’Connell has had enough of Zoom, thank you. He had countless video chats to forge a bond with his players during the pandemic.
“Obviously we weren’t able to get our offseason started at all,” O’Connell told reporters on, yep, a Zoom call.
Still, O’Connell, 35, made a connection. Craft, of Valley Center, said O’Connell’s ability to bond with others is among his attributes.
“It’s because he was recently a player in the NFL and he is young with a good personality,” said Craft, who directed Riverside City College to the state title last season. “Going into coaching is a natural transition.”
Rams quarterback Jared Goff is working closely with O’Connell as Goff, and L.A., tries to flip the script.
The Rams’ encore season to their Super Bowl run was a flop as they missed the playoffs and Goff went from being a repeat Pro Bowler to someone who threw a career-high 16 interceptions.
“He’s played the position,” Goff said of O’Connell. “He understands the intricacies that go along with playing it, and I’m super excited.”
O’Connell said there’s a buzz penetrating the Rams’ camp.
“I think it’s an exciting time for everybody as this thing kind of builds together,” O’Connell said.
Craft speculates that O’Connell is constructing a resume that could lead to him becoming a head coach. Before landing with L.A., O’Connell earned his stripes with the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Football Team.
“That is the trend right now for teams to get that young, offensive-minded coach with a background as a quarterback,” Craft said. “He has impressed people with his intuitive sense of football knowledge and his willingness to grow, which is really important, particularly with younger coaches.”
O’Connell’s boss, head coach Sean McVay, is younger (just barely) than O’Connell. McVay will continue calling plays, a responsibility often fulfilled by the offensive coordinator.
But O’Connell isn’t sweating the small stuff during a heat wave. He’s blessed to be part of an organization that aggressively moves the football.
“It’s just a credit to our whole offensive staff and Coach McVay being so inclusive,” O’Connell said. “We’ve had some unbelievable conversations already just as a group, with input coming from every corner of the room.”
No matter O’Connell’s locale, Craft is always in his corner.
“I told my staffs that anytime we have somebody go into coaching,” he said, “that it is a great compliment to them and how we do it.”