When Washington’s annual spring game ended, Dane Crane and Connor O’Brien caught a bus from CenturyLink Field to the University of Washington with their families.
As the teammates at Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) Santa Margarita stood and talked about the game, they turned their attention to the future. Standing on the campus during a sunny spring day, something felt right.
At that moment, Crane told his teammate he was ready to give the Huskies a verbal commitment.
“This is the place I want to commit,” said Crane, a 6-foot-3, 305-point offensive lineman. “I want to come here. This is where I want to be.”
The next day, he made his announcement.
“Something about Seattle was just awesome,” said Crane, who was making his first trip to Washington. “I knew right away. I just knew it.”
While Crane committed right away, O’Brien, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound athlete – he is a safety in high school, but could play outside linebacker in college – went home to weigh his options. He didn’t need much time, committing the day after his good friend.
“I went back and talked it over with my parents, because I really liked Oregon also, but I put it all together and we decided that would be the best fit,” O’Brien said. “I feel like I can be really successful there and I’d get a great education.”
When Crane and O’Brien were freshmen, they found friendship through football.
“We’ve been best friends ever since,” O’Brien said.
Then as sophomores, Santa Margarita coach Harry Welch moved them up to varsity. They didn’t play much, but there was no shortage of conditioning drills.
“All these guys did was torture Dane and Connor with extra running, extra everything,” Mike said. “Like a rookie. Connor and Dane would come home and say how they disliked football, how the coaches were way too hard on them. They never got to play.”
While there were complaints along the way, they took advantage of the torture and transformed into Pac-12 prospects.
“The coaches are doing the same thing today, but they get it,” Mike said. “Now they’re going to the University of Washington.”
Welch added, “They’re on their way. They’re bigger, stronger, quicker and more agile than they were last year, and they were pretty good last year. Their future is very, very bright.”
Blessed with similar senses of humor, Welch said the seniors “enjoy life very, very much. They will not let life pass them by. If you were to go out and have a hamburger with them, you’d smile a whole lot.”
When it comes to football, though, they are focused and physical.
“On the football field, we’re both violent,” O’Brien said. “We’re both vicious. Off the field, we can be loving guys.”
For those who know Crane and O’Brien best, it didn’t come as much of a surprise that they selected the same school. That they settled on Washington, though, was unexpected.
They come from football families – Crane’s grandfather, Bob Crane, and father, Bob Crane Jr., played football at USC, while O’Brien’s father, Mike, played at Colorado.
Growing up, Crane talked about following in the family’s footsteps.
“We thought it was just a natural progression,” Crane’s father said.
Colorado was the first program to offer O’Brien, which created an enticing option.
But they found the right fit in Seattle.
“Right when I went there, we got into Seattle and it was just awesome,” Crane said. “It’s such a cool city. The campus is beautiful. It’s such a good education. That has to come first and foremost.”
Bob didn’t make the decision easy on his son.
“That weekend we went up to Washington, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t pro-Washington,” he said. “I was being a dad who is an SC guy.”
Throughout the trip, though, he saw something in his son. And now, “I’m already learning to wear the purple,” he said.
When Crane’s plane arrived in Seattle for that April trip, he called O’Brien as soon as he landed. They were still days away from giving verbal commitments but, even then, they knew.
“I think I’m home,” Crane said
O’Brien replied, “I am home.”