Cancer survivor Casey O'Brien makes debut for Minnesota

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Cancer survivor O'Brien gets into first Minnesota game (0:36)

Four-time cancer survivor Casey O'Brien gets into his first Minnesota game as a holder and has an emotional embrace with PJ Fleck after. (0:36)

After Minnesota went up 27-0 against Rutgers in the fourth quarter Saturday, Casey O'Brien walked onto the field to hold the snap for the extra point. Typically a mundane event, but for O'Brien, a four-time cancer survivor, it was an emotional moment that he'll never forget.

O'Brien made his collegiate debut at that moment, held the snap on the made extra point, then made his way over to coach P.J. Fleck and embraced him in an emotional hug in Piscataway, New Jersey.

"It means the world to me," O'Brien said to the Big Ten Network after the game. "There's been so many ups and downs, nights in the hospitals and surgeries and everything like that, that's gone into this moment. This is what I dreamed about, and tonight it got to come through."

Originally diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, as a freshman in high school, O'Brien has gone through 14 surgeries and numerous rounds of chemotherapy. He had not played a down for Minnesota before Saturday.

He told the story of his journey at the Big Ten Football Kickoff Luncheon in July, and he was profiled in an ESPN feature last month.

He gave the crowd, and anyone fighting their own battle, some advice he received from former Minnesota player Eric Decker.

"Stay strong and never give up, you have the whole world behind you," O'Brien said.

He lived up to that advice and made his dream come true after getting a chance to join the Minnesota program as a walk-on.

He has fought and beat cancer to reach this moment, notching playing time in the Gophers' 42-7 win. It's the first time Minnesota has started the season 7-0 since 1960, but that record will pale in comparison to that moment Fleck and O'Brien shared in the fourth quarter when they embraced, that ended with the coach wiping tears from his face.

"He's an unbelievable person. He's been through an awful lot," Fleck told Big Ten Network. "When you think courage, you think Casey O'Brien. When you think Row the Boat, you think our program.

"You think the University of Minnesota and our state of Minnesota, you think Casey O'Brien. No one can ever take away that he played college football in the Big Ten. No one can ever take that away from him."