By BRIAN JENNINGS
Tim O’Shea III and his buddies strolled out onto the stage like 70s rock stars, and it didn’t take long for the showman to captivate the crowd at the Southington High School poetry contest. By the end of his performance, O’Shea was signing autographs for this new fans.
“It just shows you his ability to have fun, command a crowd, and have charisma,” said Southington football coach Mike Drury, but that’s what fans have come to expect from the three-sport star. Whether he’s making a shoestring catch on the gridiron, capping a fast break with a leaping layup, or soaring into the sandy pit at a track meet, O’Shea always leaves fans wanting more.
“Tim was always a kid that was smiling,” said Drury. “He never had a down mentality or attitude, even when things weren’t going completely his way. He may get upset at himself, but he’s going to compete as hard as anyone. He stayed positive within himself and within the other players around him.”
This past fall, O’Shea was one of only two returning veterans in the receiving corps, and he became the elder statesman when the other returner fell to injury in the opening days. O’Shea anchored the group and kept them in the hunt for the playoffs through a 30-22 victory on Thanksgiving Day.
“We knew that we were going to lean on those guys as leaders, but Tim had to take over that role of being the leader of a talented, younger group, and he was rock solid,” said Drury. “His preparation before the season and work ethic at practice was top-notch. It wasn’t a surprise that he was going to have the type of career that he had.”
Drury said that O’Shea relentlessly worked on his game in practice, and that helped him put on his best performance on Friday nights. As the season progressed, the Knights suffered a few more key injuries within their offense, so they needed O’Shea to be that go-to target for them when they needed it in their air attack.
His ability to catch the football, his size, and the leverage he had over almost everyone that defended him were just some of the reasons why he was such an intricate piece to Southington’s offense. As a 6-foot-4, 195-pound wide receiver with a big frame, he had the tools that not a lot of receivers had to catch the football, whether it was one-handed, two-handed, in traffic, over guys, or under guys.
“His ability to catch the football and catch radius are great,” said Drury. “Close to 6-foot-5, he’s a tough matchup out there. When guys have to cover guys like that the entire night, it’s tough. He can get the ball out away from defenders where only he can get it.”
In his senior season, O’Shea led all Southington receivers with 49 catches for 609 yards and eight touchdowns, hauling in an average of 12.4 yards per catch. The next best Southington receiver finished with 24 catches for 428 yards and three touchdowns. O’Shea also earned all-conference honors.
But his high school career isn’t over…yet. O’Shea is expected to play his final high school football game for Team Connecticut when they take on Team Rhode Island in the Governor’s All-Star football game on June 30 at Rentschler Field in East Hartford. He was one of six receivers in the state chosen to play in the game.
“Tim can play with the best of them,” said Drury. “He was one of the first guys that we knew we wanted to get on that team as a receiver.”
Drury that he’s been a fan of O’Shea’s long before his days as a varsity player, and the coach scouted him as a youngster in the youth leagues. O’Shea was a quarterback at that time and came to the Blue Knights with aspirations of being behind the center for them as well.
But he shifted to receiver because that’s where Southington needed him the most.
“If you’re a quarterback, then you want to play quarterback, and I get that,” said Drury. “But there’s only one that plays in the field, and if you don’t beat him out or you’re a bigger asset in another position, that’s more important for a team and a program. So, he took it and said that he was going to be the best receiver that he possibly could be, and that’s what he did.”
O’Shea will be continuing his football career at Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y. to play for the Division I Seahawks this coming fall after signing his name onto a letter of intent this past February. He plans to study business administration with a concentration in management.
Of course, coaches say that O’Shea embraced whatever role he was given, and nothing shows that as much as his winter season where he helped pace the Blue Knight basketball team to their best season in almost a decade. O’Shea was—quite literally—in the center of the action. He led the battle in the paint and squared off against some of the biggest players in the state.
Southington rallied to a 14-6 record and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in over a decade before falling to No. 2 Waterford in a tight contest. It was also Southington’s first state tournament win with Head Coach John Cessario at the helm.
Southington’s deep run to the quarterfinals could easily have never happened if it weren’t for O’Shea lighting the spark. In the first-round win over Berlin, he scored the first points of overtime on a layup that resulted in a three-point play at the foul line, setting the tone for the extra period.
“He made an and-one play that really set the tone when things were kind of rough that really helped us,” said Cessario. “That really made people loosen up in such a tight game.”
Most of Southington’s field goals in that game came from second-chance opportunities, as the Knights outrebounded the Redcoats, 40-25. O’Shea set the pace for the Knights, finishing the game with 11 points and nine rebounds. Even it the loss at Waterford, O’Shea collected Southington’s only double-double with 10 points and 16 rebounds.
He practically averaged a double-double throughout Southington’s deep Division III run, but O’Shea was also able to take the attention and pressure off of his teammates by being a presence that forced opposing teams to pay attention to. He freed up scoring opportunities around him.
“He set so many spicks this year that he did so many things to free up scorers,” said Cessario. “It goes with that unnoticed tag. He was able to really take care of business for us against other size, and it allowed other guys to be who they are. That’s what makes him that intangible presence.”
O’Shea sustained an ankle injury within the first couple of minutes of the seventh game of the season. It was a two-point loss at Conard, and he went on to miss the next five games.
After rolling his ankle at Conard, O’Shea still had his head up on the bench.
“He told me that he was going to be fine and would come back before I knew it,” said Cessario. “He stayed so positive.”
O’Shea didn’t just have to battle injury. He was even sick throughout a portion of the season. At times, he played sick and was fighting major illness. When he returned, he didn’t try to force things to make up for lost time. Cessario said he’ll remember O’Shea for his maturity and unselfishness
“He didn’t score 20 points to catch up his average,” said Cessario. “He wanted to defend, rebound, and lead. He was there for every practice and game, in which he wasn’t a part of the lineup for. He’s tremendous.”
O’Shea still managed to finish his senior season on the hardwood with 134 points, 127 rebounds (3rd on team), 54 tips, 23 assists—averaging 6.4 rebounds a game—23 steals, and 22 blocks (2nd on team)—averaging over a block a game. He also went 28-for-44 from the foul line.
His most productive game came in a 61-48 victory over Hall at home. He paced the Knight offense with 16 points.
O’Shea’s contributions were noticed by more than fans. His Southington team was recognized in April by the Central Connecticut Board 6 officials with the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials (IAABO) Boys Sportsmanship Award.
The award takes the following factors into consideration: sportsmanship and behavior of the team’s players, sportsmanship and behavior of the team’s coaches, how officials are treated by the team’s athletic administration, and ease of working with the team’s athletic department when assigning officials.
Cessario said that O’Shea definitely helped the Knights get recognized.
“When you’re the center and one of four captains, you’re the one that’s meeting the officials prior to the game even starting,” said Cessario. “You are directly representing us, and I can consider him a major contributor to that…Tim is a leader and a man of character. When you can put that, as well as athletic ability, together, you know that you’re going to have a special kid.”
O’Shea was a freshman when Cessario took over the program, and the coach said that his former star stood out from the first freshman tryout. He made the team as a freshman, contributed as the seventh or eighth man, and grew into a starting center over four years with the program. More importantly, he built up those around him.
“He was someone who constantly created communication,” said Cessario. “He constantly tried to pick his teammates up. He never showed selfishness. It was a unanimous thought process from the coaching staff to select him as a captain because he constantly grew as a person, player, and member of his family.”
That commitment to team showed the most in the spring season where O’Shea wasn’t the top guy. For the past two seasons, he competed in the javelin, high jump, and 100m. He was a hard worker in practice but never rose to the varsity level.
Coach Dan Dachelet said that it never seemed to faze O’Shea that he wasn’t in the spotlight. O’Shea developed into a competent contributor with personal bests of 111 feet, 9 inches in the javelin and 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump.
“Although he wasn’t a varsity athlete, he could have been a varsity athlete in the javelin,” said Dachelet, but the coach said that a minor injury kept him sidelined for part of the spring.
Most would have walked away, but O’Shea pushed through his injury, returned to the runway, and came within nine feet of qualifying for the conference meet. He was able to fight through the injury in the 4x200m relay, and his team set a school record (1:40.65) this spring.
“Tim was a hardworking, young man, who caught on to javelin very quickly,” said Southington coach Kasia Kalinowski. “He always wanted to improve and asked questions to make sure that he threw the javelin far. He was a very coachable athlete, who was willing to work hard and get better.”
Whether he was a sideline player, a blue collar center, or a gridiron superstar, O’Shea seemed to attack the competition with the same focus, determination, and effort. He led by statistics and by example.
For his outstanding athletic achievements, versatility, and leadership, Tim O’Shea III is The Observer’s 2018 Male Athlete of the Year.