Photo Credit: Middle Tennessee Athletics
When Middle Tennessee quarterback Asher O’Hara walked into the “Big House” in 2019, the nerves that normally hit O’Hara were nowhere to be found.
“Honestly, the weirdest thing. I’ve been nervous for every football game of my life but that first Michigan game, I just couldn’t find myself,” O’Hara explained. “Like, I wanted to be nervous but I don’t know what it was. I just felt good about the night, to be honest.”
It was Asher’s second career start for the Blue Raiders. After sitting behind Brent Stockstill in 2018, the Rolling Meadows, Ill. native was named the starting quarterback. With most of his family in attendance, O’Hara was set to start the season against Michigan.
“I was just so thrilled for that opportunity,” said O’Hara. “I had about 36 family and friends come to that game and I knew it was going to be a special one. My dad used to play at Minnesota, so he’s played in the Big House a few times. It was crazy for me when I was on that field pre-game knowing that my dad was on this same very field 30 years ago or whatever it was.”
This, however, wasn’t the beginning of the journey for O’Hara. Rather, it was the beginning of a second journey — one which took a long time to cultivate.
Despite a strong career at Rolling Meadows High School, O’Hara was under-recruited. An all-state honorable mention as a senior, O’Hara finished his high school career with nothing more than preferred walk-on offers.
“I feel like I took [the process] pretty well,” O’Hara said about the high school recruiting process. “I wasn’t surprised.”
Through the disappointment, O’Hara stayed upbeat.
“I kind of had expectations that there’s a chance, maybe because of my height or some other things, that I might not get all the love that I feel like I deserved,” he continued. “But I wasn’t really taking it to heart too much. I knew that eventually, I’d find a place for me.”
Rather than taking one of those offers, O’Hara chose a different route. He opted to follow in the footsteps of his older brother Devin, who later attended North Texas. O’Hara attended the College of DuPage — a junior college located just 16 miles west of Chicago.
“My older brother Devin, who’s four years older than me, he went to the College of DuPage after one year at Western Illinois and he transferred out of there to North Texas,” O’Hara said. “So I always knew, in the back pocket, that I could go JUCO if I don’t have anything.”
O’Hara was successful at the College of DuPage. In his lone season there, O’Hara finished with 1,814 yards and 15 touchdowns while completing 65 percent of his passes. O’Hara also added 565 yards on the ground.
Despite the success, O’Hara found recruiting hard. As an attempt to help his recruiting, his father Les created a website titled AsherOHara.com to try and help his recruiting.
Want more college football content?
Discussion like this takes place every day in our forum! Join today!
O’Hara eventually found Middle Tennessee State University. Almost immediately, he chose to commit Middle Tennessee and offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.
“Right away, Coach [Tony] Franklin answered. We emailed him and he said he was willing to see me as soon as possible to throw and from then on, when I got there, everyone was so loving and caring. Brent Stockstill helped me out through the whole workout that I was put through,” O’Hara explained. “So, I was just there with the starter, learning from him. He gave me a bunch of tips and it felt like they all truly were behind me and wanted me to get an offer from them. And from that day, I got one. I really didn’t think twice about them because a week prior to that throwing session, I got an offer from Southern Illinois, so it was really going to be that, but I picked this up last second and I didn’t even hesitate.”
When looking back at his time in JUCO, O’Hara was appreciative of the experience.
“It’s a great experience, honestly. It’s something that I’m so happy I got to do and I would do again if I went back and could,” O’Hara said. “I think that the bonds you make with the teammates are just so special because everyone’s there from different places for different reasons and I just love my team there. Had a great coaching staff and playing in those games was good competition. I really enjoyed that whole experience and now my little brother Jace is at my college, so I’m living it through him again.”
In his first season starting, O’Hara was one of the best quarterbacks in the Group of 5. In 12 starts, O’Hara recorded 2,616 passing yards and 20 touchdowns while completing 62.7 percent of his passes. O’Hara also added a team-high 1,058 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
In his first conference game, O’Hara helped lead Middle Tennessee to a 24-13 win over Marshall. Through the air, O’Hara completed 17 of his 30 passes for 261 yards and one touchdown. On 17 rushing attempts, O’Hara added 76 rushing yards. That included a second-quarter touchdown to put Middle Tennessee up, 17-10.
“It was our first conference game and we knew how important it was, because you got to start out strong with that and Marshall was a really good team and they [were] expected to win it, even starting out,” O’Hara said. “We had some good expectations for them but we knew us as a unit, we could really win the game and Coach Franklin called a lot of good plays to put us in good positions that game.”
One of the Nation’s Best Dual-Threat QBs
His junior season put O’Hara into the conversation of some of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks. His rushing is, for the most part, unrivaled in the grand scheme of college football.
“I think it just comes to instinct, because when you feel like you have to get out of there, then you do have to get out of there. And sometimes it’s open and you gotta get out and take what you can if it’s five, 10 yards, sometimes more. And for me, I just always been running since I was a kid. I don’t know what it was, but I just couldn’t sit back there all the time, and I was good at making people miss. I think the mindset, you just have to believe that you could avoid anyone in open field. That’s how it comes to me.”
Advice to the Next Generation
O’Hara’s journey has had it’s ups-and-downs, especially with his high school recruiting. O’Hara, like many players, struggled to gain collegiate interest and get his name out there. When asked what advice O’Hara had for players like him, O’Hara had this to say:
“I think my message is … some people, not everyone’s gonna believe in you and you’re going to be slept on. That’s what I always thought. I’m slept on but that’s fine,” O’Hara said. “I’ll keep it to myself and someday, someone will appreciate me for how I play and stuff like that. You just have to keep your head down and keep working, knowing that eventually, if you believe in yourself, you’ll pick up and offer and someone will care and want you on their team.”
O’Hara, who is listed at 6-foot-0, also offered advice to quarterbacks who are undersized for the position.
“One thing is finding passing lanes. If you’re not that tall, you gotta work harder,” O’Hara said. “And our coach, Coach Franklin, really harps on fast feet in the pocket and being able to move to find a passing lane to throw in, because obviously, I can’t throw over some guys, so I’m gonna have to find a little lane to throw. But I think what separates me from most is my ability to run in space and get out and make plays happen when sometimes there isn’t much going on. I just trust in my abilities and when it works in a game, I’ll take advantage of it.”