Mike O’Laughlin has been through a lot in four years at West Virginia. O’Laughlin has dealt with a change in position, a body transformation, a coaching change, and multiple injuries since arriving to campus in 2018.
In 2018, former WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen brought in Mike O’Laughlin from Fenwick High School in Illinois as a 6-foot-5 wide receiver. In his freshman season in Morgantown, O’Laughlin suffered a torn ACL in his first fall camp, which forced him to take a medical redshirt.
In the time between the injury in 2018 to the next season, O’Laughlin got much bigger and stronger to where he became a tight end ready to take on Big 12 caliber defenders.
What does O’Laughlin think of his blocking ability?
“I’ve always had the mentality, but I didn’t have the body for it when I first got here, especially against Big 12 linebackers and D ends,” O’Laughlin said.
When Holgorsen left and Neal Brown came in, O’Laughlin entered the NCAA transfer portal for a brief time, but ended up returning to West Virginia for the 2019 season. In 2019, O’Laughlin played in all 12 games for Brown and going into the 2020 season, he became the Mountaineers’ main target at tight end.
O’Laughlin showed that he could protect the run and catch the football in the 2020 season, as the tight end racked up 137 yards receiving and caught a crucial touchdown to get the Mountaineers back in striking distance in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl against Army.
Going into the 2021 season, O’Laughlin was ready to continue his improvement that he had made over the previous two seasons. Unfortunately, O’Laughlin ran into another injury to where he could not practice in fall camp. The injury was a lower leg stress injury from summer workouts that ended up sidelining O’Laughlin for the first two games of the season.
“Watching the Maryland game knowing there’s nothing you can really do. You’re on the sideline in your regular clothes, and that’s difficult,” O’Laughlin said.
O’Laughlin missed the first two games of the season, but was healed and suited up for a crucial 27-21 victory over Virginia Tech.
While West Virginia’s offense is slow at times, the addition of O’Laughlin will certainly help, especially now that he has a few games under his belt. O’Laughlin will add strength in protection and will be an extra target for the quarterbacks to throw to.
On Tuesday, O’Laughlin was asked which aspect of the game is more satisfying, catching a first down pass or putting a defender on their back.
“I get more satisfaction, for sure, putting someone on their back. Putting another man on their back against their will is one of the best feelings on the planet,” O’Laughlin said with a grin.
O’Laughlin is a good example for the younger generation of football players, as he shows the balance between being a physical football player while also being himself off the field.
“On the field you’ve got to be a little nasty and crazy, but off the field you can be whoever you want. That’s a day-to-day choice. I just like to enjoy life and I’m usually an optimistic person, but when I have a job to do, especially when I’m on the gridiron, I do everything I can to get it done,” O’Laughlin said.
O’Laughlin’s passion for football and the tight end position has brought him a long way in his four years in Morgantown. Look for O’Laughlin to put more defenders on their backs and maybe catch an important pass from time to time as the 2021 season progresses.