By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)
It was a day full of highlights for Massachusetts natives across college football Saturday. But, on the same night that Everett alum Lukas Denis sealed the game and bowl eligibility for Boston College with his first career interception, and Springfield native Christian Wilkins continued his dominant sophomore campaign for Clemson, it was Leominster alum Neil O'Connor who made the most spectacular play.
Well, that is according to SportsCenter, at least.
O'Connor, now a sophomore wide receiver at the University of New Hampshire, earned the top spot on the ESPN flagship show's Top 10 with a one-handed grab in the Wildcats' blowout playoff win against Lehigh.
Leominster's @oconnor_neil made No. 1 on the #SCtop10 tonight for this catch for UNH today vs. Lehigh in FCS playoffs. CMass legend! pic.twitter.com/PZEUR8NKKF— Carl Setterlund (@CarlSetterlund) November 27, 2016
This catch is just the biggest highlight of a sensational sophomore campaign, in which O'Connor has asserted himself as one of the best young players in Division 1 FCS. In his first year starting for UNH, O'Connor has emerged as the Wildcats' best receiver, leading the FCS power with 767 yards and six touchdowns through the air.
During his days in Leominster, O'Connor was one of the best Blue Devils ever, contributing to two Central Mass Division 1 Super Bowl winners as a wide receiver and defensive back, then earning Gatorade Player of the Year in Massachusetts during his senior season of 2013. That year, O'Connor starred on both sides of the ball, as one of the region's premier quarterbacks and safeties, leading Leominster to a perfect regular season and Central Mass title game appearance.
While O'Connor's career would end at the hands of rival St. John's (Shrewsbury) in the playoffs, he still had one of the most complete seasons we've seen around these parts in a long time, and earned our SuiteSports Player of the Year Award because of it.
We certainly look forward to watching the rest of O'Connor and the Wildcats' run in the FCS tournament.