A rising star that captivated the spring game and the Big House was none other than junior WR Peyton O’Leary.
A dynamic presence amongst the bountiful talents in the receiving room. O’Leary went out and put the world on notice.
From going unnoticed to the forefront, O’Leary joined Jon Jansen on In the Trenches to discuss his rise through the ranks.
The spring game is the opportunity for a lot of guys on Michigan’s roster to make a statement to the coaches. Not one to waste the afforded chance, O’Leary shined with six catches for 126 yards. The once three-sport athlete in high school shared how his hard work and dedication helped get him to where he is now.
“I was the star in all of them and then I came here and sat on the bench,” O’Leary shared, “I am hoping to make a change with that this year.”
O’Leary came to Michigan as a preferred walk-on. Playing for Michigan was a chance he wasn’t going to miss out on. Initially, he had hopes of joining his brother at UMass Amherst to play lacrosse.
“It was a dream of ours to play together at the highest level, but football has been a window I always wanted to go through,” he said.
Instead, O’Leary headed to Ann Arbor and spent two years working day in and day out with his Michigan teammates. That work did not go unnoticed in Schembechler Hall.
After the conclusion of last season, O’Leary met with the staff in an exit interview, where he was told that he had been afforded a scholarship.
“It was a dream come true,” O’Leary said. “A blessing from coach and my teammates.”
Now in a much different place than he was a year ago, O’Leary reflected on the specifics of his game and how his hard work directly led to his performance in the Big House.
First, it was sharpening the mechanics, then the intelligence. Another thing O’Leary has spent a lot of time working on is speed.
“The coaches have helped make me more explosive and faster,” he explained, “As a receiver you have to have the first fast step after release, the first most explosive step to get separation.”
It’s not lost on O’Leary that a lot of people haven’t seen him play. So when asked about his ability to find holes in the defense and take those opportunities to make big plays, he shared the obvious.
“I can read them and what coverage is coming before the snap and certain route detail depends on what detail is thrown at you, so you match with that.”
O’Leary has also taken the last couple of years to really develop relationships with his teammates. That, he shared, was a big part of why he found success in the spring game.
“It’s the trust with the quarterback on and off the field and that starts off the field. If you have a great friendship and connection with everyone in this building, they will trust you on the field without seeing you play.”
Now the spring game is in the rearview mirror. Fall camp looms ahead, the start of the season draws closer with every passing day, and O’Leary is ready to continue making strides.
“I think I put myself in a great spot so far,” O’Leary said. “At practice, my main focus is to be on time, on target with routes, be detailed, and do everything right. Knowing the coaches trust you. I strive to be the best.”