As we continue with our Alumni Spotlight project we sit down with two Dickinson football players, Mike Maxwell '10 and Mike O'Donnell '08, who are not just teammates but share something even more unique, they are brothers-in-law. From pushing each other and growing into young men on Biddle Field, they are now neighbors and watching each other's families grow and creating new memories each and every day.
Mike O'Donnell grew up in Media, Pennsylvania and attended Penncrest High School where his interest for football blossomed into his passion. "I played a handful of sports there but ultimately football was the sport I knew I wanted to pursue," Mike stated. "I was actually encouraged by a coach of mine at the time who was a Centennial Conference alumnus. He was an Ursinus graduate but he was the one who really turned me on to the conference and sparked my interest."
Mike Maxwell grew up only about 20-30 minutes away from Mike O'Donnell in Coatesville, Pennsylvania. "I was fortunate enough to play three sports in high school," Mike said. "As I got older, football became more and more of a passion for me. Football and Dickinson would never have happened if I didn't meet Coach Q. So that is what truly attracted me to the program."
For both, they had similar responses on why the Dickinson program was the perfect fit for them but the overarching theme from both alumni was the simplest answer, culture. "The one thing that is very definitive when you show up in Carlisle is this focus on who came before and emphasis on tradition and community," said Mike Maxwell. "The one thing Coach Breaux and Coach Q did was talk about who came before you and how they built the program."
Mike O'Donnell was quick to add that culture isn't something that is built overnight. The foundation was laid under Coach Ed Sweeney, who came before Coach Breaux and Coach Quattrone. "Mike and I have gotten the opportunity to get to know a lot of the players from the Coach Sweeney era. It's like two people coming together from different generations but we all have the same beliefs as they did," Mike O'Donnell stated. "Everyone wanted to put the work in. It was all about the program and it was all about putting team above self."
Both young men learned so much during their time at Dickinson, both in the classroom and equally as important on the field. "We could have a separate conversation about all the lessons Coach Breaux and Coach Q taught us about life and football that still apply to us today," both said with a big laugh and smile. "But I think the biggest one was how to appropriately handle and manage adversity," said Mike O'Donnell. "How do you face adversity? How do you process it? That's the essence of life."
Now as young fathers and husbands both Mike and Mike have begun to write a new chapter in their lives that are forever intertwined. "It's surreal, it's like a dream come true," Mike O'Donnell said as Mike Maxwell jumped in with the line and a smile on his face "me being the dream." "It is amazing and it's everything you would expect it to be. We think similarly, we parent similarly, so we get to share in this experience and it's a beautiful thing and we are super lucky."
"Everything has worked out so well," Mike Maxwell added. "I am a big believer in that fact that if you surround yourself with great people, you set yourself up for success." Mike continued by saying how truly special it is to share in so many special moments in our lives.
Just like they did as players all those years ago on the field to help each other through the highs and lows, both young men lean on each other now as young husbands and fathers. "We are absolutely a support system for one another," Mike Maxwell said. "He's a terrific father and a terrific friend and I am just so lucky to see him go through that experience and learn from him. We are lucky and truly thankful for each other."
The pair crossed over for two seasons on Biddle Field and enjoyed much success, leading the Red Devils to a Centennial Conference Championship, an NCAA playoff appearance and the 2007 Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championship. Maxwell turned in an oustanding performance in the ECAC title game, making his second interception of the day in the final seconds of regulation. They would go on to win a thriller in overtime, defeating Waynesburg 16-10. That was also a truly historic day as it was the last game to be played on grass at Biddle Field.
O'Donnell had great senior season in 2007, serving as a team captain and earning All-Conference honors. He led the team in tackles in 2005 and finished his career ranked in the programs' top-10 for tackles, solo tackles and intercetion return yards. O'Donnell was part of another conference championship, raising the trophy in 2004.
Maxwell was named the Most Valuable Player of the ECAC Championship game, adding nine tackles to his two interceptions. He was a two-time captain, earning All-Conference and team MVP honors in 2009. He tied for fourth in program history, leading the conference with seven interceptions in 2007, tied for sixth all-time with 15 picks in his career and recorded over 200 tackles.
The Red Devil defense was a nightmare of opposing quarterbacks during this era, leading the conference in interceptions in both 2004 and 2007. In 2006, the Red Devils led the conference in sacks and rushing defense, ranking ninth in the nation for sacks as well. In 2004, the team was second in the nation in turnover margin and ranked in the top-20 for pass efficiency defense and scoring defense.
To view their exclusive interview, click on the link below.