Being a quarterback in the National Football League (NFL) is a career that so many in this country grow up dreaming about – a job that has created some of the most iconic and renowned sports figures in American history. But with all the accolades that can come with the title, it can be thankless, and mentally and physically draining. One person who knows this is Coronado resident J.T. O’Sullivan.
J.T.’s NFL career was unique in so many ways. He played 12 years in the NFL, which saw him don ten different NFL uniforms — Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots, Carolina Panthers, Detroit Lions, San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals, San Diego Chargers, and Oakland Raiders.
Bouncing from team to team would be something that could break many players down, but for O’Sullivan, it was something he wasn’t afraid of. Instead, he chose to take it head-on, “For me, motivation was never an issue. There was never a moment where I got down. Whenever I got cut, it was like, ‘Hey, you don’t think I’m good enough; we’ll I’m gonna show you.’ I knew my time in the NFL was so precious, so I was going to do everything I could to make it last as long as I could.”
For most of his career, O’Sullivan was a backup quarterback, a job that many uninformed NFL fans deem “easy.” But to O’Sullivan, it was much more of a grind than the public gets to see. “There are certainly several great elements of the job, but for me personally, I died a little bit inside each Sunday when I didn’t play. Your career is so finite, you prepare as much as you can for such a limited number of opportunities.”
O’Sullivan also explained the job is more complex than what meets the eye, saying, “As the backup quarterback, you’re really like another coach on the staff and how you approach that all depends on you. You have to be part counselor, part buddy, another set of eyes, part translator to the wide receiver and offensive line for what you’re seeing. So often, the backup is key at translating and communicating with other parts of the coaching staff. It’s part of the job that so many don’t see but is invaluable.”
Another layer of J.T.’s football story that makes it one of a kind is the time that he spent in NFL Europe, which serves as a testament to his unwillingness to quit.
“NFL Europe was great for the simple reason I got to play. I felt that I had hit the ceiling in terms of how much better I could get in practice, and with NFL Europe, I was able to take snaps regularly as a starter. The first time I went there, I got traded for, and the second stop there gave me the second half (another six years) in the NFL. And more importantly, it reinvigorated how much I wanted to keep playing. There’d be times I didn’t know what city or country we were in, but that was fine because all I cared about was playing.”
After a 2012 stint in the Canadian Football League, it became clear that he had exhausted all of his options and it was time to hang up the proverbial cleats.
For a time, O’Sullivan stepped away from football simply because he needed a break, a sabbatical if you will. During that time off he returned to get his graduate degree from UC Davis, but it wasn’t long until the sport of football would draw him back in. Just maybe not in the way that some expected.
In 2018 O’Sullivan launched the YouTube channel, The QB School. The QB School was created to provide the highest level of football analysis available. The site is made for fans, players, and coaches with videos of himself breaking down game tape of quarterbacks at both the NFL and college level, while also taking a deeper dive into play concepts, play design, etc. “For a long time, my brother, who is a commercial cinematographer, had been trying to get me to start creating football content. We came to the conclusion that the best platform for this content was YouTube. We thought I could bring something to the table that few had seen before.”
The creative process, and determining what film O’Sullivan breaks down, is primarily left up to fans of the channel. And that’s done intentionally as the former NFL QB told me, “You’d be surprised how little football I watch on Saturdays and Sundays. I’m not one of those guys who sits down and plans to watch a certain game. I much prefer spending those days at the beach and being with my family here in Coronado.”
Now in year three of creating and producing the QB School, JT’s channel has reached over 90,000 subscribers and continues to grow on YouTube as well as other media outlets such as Twitter and Patreon. “I think what really sets me apart from other analysts that you see on TV with networks like ESPN is that I can take a deeper dive into the film and give a more thorough and full breakdown of a player.”
While O’Sullivan may no longer take the field on Sundays, there’s no question that football will continue to play a large role in his future. In closing, I asked him if he ever expected to enjoy this new career as much as he has; JT laughed and told me, “Honestly, if you had told me I’d enjoy making these videos as much as I do, I would have told you you’re crazy.”