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Brian O’Brycki grew up in Allen Park, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit. He and his older brothers attended Cabrini Prep, the catholic high school in Allen Park. O’Brycki played just about every position on the football team while in high school, but primarily defensive end and fullback. Cabrini won three consecutive titles when he played there.
After attending trade school and then multiple layoffs associated with the industry, O’Brycki began his own lawn service business. He also felt he would like to try his hand at coaching and began to help the CYO seventh and eighth graders. Now married with children, former Notre Dame quarterback Terry Andrysiuk – the head coach at Cabrini – asked Brian to help him coach at his alma mater. Andrusiak left the next year, taking on a business venture with former Irish coach Ara Parseghian.
O’Brycki was appointed Cabrini’s new head coach in 1995 and the school went 8-1, making the playoffs for the first time in their history. He continued as Cabrini’s head coach until 2010 and then took over the program at nearby Taylor Kennedy High School.
In his third year at the school, his wife Nancy was diagnosed with breast cancer. At about the same time, O’Brycki’s brother passed away and his mother was diagnosed with dementia. Later that year, doctors performed a mastectomy on Nancy. Se continued to have regular checkups and her radiation and chemotherapy treatments began the following March.
“We were really devasted when she was diagnosed,” said O’Brycki. “Being a nurse, she understood what had to be done. Nancy is, without question, the strongest and bravest person I’ve ever known.” Over a six week period, Nancy had eight chemotherapy sessions and 34 radiation treatments.
According to O’Brycki, the outpouring of support was off the charts. “From the school’s athletic director to assistant coaches and administrators, the message was the same – take as much time as you need to be with Nancy. Family comes first.” Ironically, O’Brycki’s brother in law took over as head coach while Brian attended to Nancy.
“My father once said, ‘you really know who your true friends are during times of adversity,’” said O’Brycki. “The outpouring of support was phenomenal not just from the school but from the entire community, especially fellow coaches all over Allen Park. Many would call or come over with food or even offer to do errands for us or even take Nancy to the doctor’s offices. Strangers also came to the door with support, many of them wanting to talk about a similar situation they – or a loved one – had experienced.”
One person also went through a masectomy and told Nancy what to expect. But, according to O’Brycki, the most incredible part of the story was the outpouring of coaches from all around the area, many of them Cabrini rivals. “Many rival coaches called and visited and showed a genuine heartfelt concern. We were trying to be low-key about it, but their support was overwhelming. Since then, I’ve become good friends with a number of the area coaches.” Nancy has now been free of cancer for nearly three years.
“One of the greatest positives from this experience has been experiencing new relationships with fellow coaches,” said O’Brycki. “It really shows the togetherness of the coaching profession. They were all there for us when we needed them. We plan to be there for them. Nancy and I have been completely humbled by the entire experience.”
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