Dan was the Director of Football Operations in 2010 when the University of Minnesota hired Jerry Kill as the head coach. O’Brien and coach Kill formed a close relationship over the next few years. As the Golden Gophers prepared for the 2013 Texas Bowl, the team doctors thought it would be a good idea to have Coach Kill in the room when they informed Dan and his wife Chris that their son, Casey, had osteosarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer. (Casey O’Brien would become a member of the 2018 Rare Disease Champion class.)
The initial treatment plan for Casey required a nearly 100-day stay in the hospital, seven hours of surgery to remove the cancer and a complete knee replacement followed by 24 rounds of chemotherapy. Dan and Chris didn’t want to leave their son alone. So mom, Chris, took the day shift and Dan was on duty at night.
Even when his job required him to travel out of town, he would make it a day trip and fly back home to be with his son. No matter what was required of him, Dan made sure he was there every night.