No matter the sport, Chris O'Brien's athleticism has always shined. As a placekicker for the San Diego State Aztecs from 1984 to 1985, O'Brien was a first-team All-Western Athletic Conference selection and still holds the record for the highest field goal percentage in SDSU history. In addition to football, Chris competed for the SDSU waterski team and rugby. On the water, he placed top 10 at the Collegiate Waterski Nationals. For the SDSU Rugby Club, he was an All- American selection and led the backs and team to the Pacific Coast RFU playoffs in 1985. After the conclusion of his collegiate career, he signed free agent preseason contracts with the Philadelphia Eagles and the New York Jets.
Chris would later play for the Old Blues Rugby Club in Berkley, CA from 1980 to 1998. During his career with the Blues, he helped the club earn a USA National Championship in 1993 and was recognized as the team’s Most Valuable Back. He also appeared on the pitch for the Hawaii Harlequins in 1988. For many years, Chris was an automatic choice on the Northern California Pelicans, Pacific Coast Grizzlies, USA Cougars, and the USA Eagles.
Chris graced the pitch for the USA Eagles from 1988 to 1994 at flyhalf. With the Eagles 15s squad Chris played 94 games earning 22 total caps. He participated in four Eagles 15s tours including starts against New Zealand and England in the 1991 Rugby World Cup. He simultaneously played for the Eagles 7s squad earning 72 total caps, played in the 1993 Rugby World Cup and captained the Eagles 7s to the Plate Final at the 1994 Hong Kong 7s.
"Chris was not only a massive success in the 15s game, he proved to be equally as effective in the Eagles 7s. He achieved RWC player status in both 15s and 7s where his talents and leadership were showcased against the world's best. His playing career was a full decade of playing against the world's best and competing well. Chris's greatest contributions could arguably be with how he gave back to the game and his accomplishments coaching young players," said former Grizzlies and Eagles teammate, Bill Leversee.
His coaching resume is gaining as much notoriety as his playing career. He began his coaching career in 1999 with the perennial powerhouse program, University of California, Berkeley. He helped coach the Cal-backs and helped the Bears to three National Championship titles. His time at Cal prepared him for the head coaching role at Stanford in 2005. O'Brien also served as
Director of Rugby and head coach of the Danville Oaks High School varsity squad, leading them to their first high school national championship in 2018 and a fifth-place finish in 2019.
"Success on the field as a player and a coach fill two of the three buckets I feel must be evaluated for inclusion in this special group. An important point to evaluate would be Chris’s rugby selflessness and unique ability to serve the rugby public for 20 years with much positive impact while flying as far under the radar screen as possible. Chris has made a significant and positive impact on hundreds and hundreds of rugby lives in a direct and impactful fashion. It is reported by others that he has worked near miracles with troubled kids using rugby as the vehicle to help find balance in life while in the same breath teaching the art of kicking to our most elite domestic-born ball players," said former Eagle and US Rugby Hall of Fame inductee, Dan Lyle.
Chris’s resume also includes a five-year stint as the first-ever kicking specialist coach for the USA Eagles 15s from 2011 to 2016, including coaching at the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups. He currently holds the title as head coach of the Cal Poly Mustangs, leading the club to their first collegiate playoff berth in 17 years during the 2022 season and a first-time appearance at the National Collegiate Sevens tournament. The O'Brien factor has taken effect on the Cal Poly Mustangs Rugby Club, producing record fundraising amounts and sustained support for the future of the program. Chris will join his brother Tim as the first brothers in the HOF.