In 2010, Danny O'Brien shined for the University of Maryland, bright enough to win ACC Rookie of the Year honors and help lead the Terps to a 9-4 record.
In 2012, the quarterback transferred to and then started for the Wisconsin Badgers, for a while, anyway.
In 2013, the fifth-year senior and North Carolina native is headed home, sort of. Division II Catawaba College is located near where O'Brien grew up.
It's just not where anyone back in 2010 imagined he would end up.
FoxSportsWisconsin.com reported the news on Sunday, noting that O'Brien would be playing in the South Atlantic Conference rather than Big Ten or ACC. That the Salisbury, N.C. school is near his hometown of Kennersville. That his new intimate home venue holds room for only 4,000 fans.
Oddly, O'Brien barely threw for 4,000 yards during his time at Maryland. Odd because after tossing for 2,438 yards as a sophomore - along with 22 touchdowns and only eight interceptions - it appeared he was headed for more, much more.
Then went head coach Ralph Friedgen and his pro-style offense. Then in came Randy Edsall - and offensive coordinator Gary Crowton's spread attack. In his final season with the Terps, O'Brien threw for 1,648 yards along with seven touchdown passes and 10 picks. The pocket passer struggled, eventually replaced by the mobile C.J. Brown.
The challenges continued with the Badgers. Named the opening day QB, O'Brien started three games, but was benched during the third and saw only spot duty from there. His one year in Wisconsin produced three touchdown passes, 523 yards and a decision to go home.
"He just wants to go and have some fun and play some football," said Todd Willert, O'Brien's high school coach, to Fox. "I think he's excited to play back in North Carolina so it's not so far away from everything. Family and friends and everybody can go watch him in his last year. I think he's looking forward to that."
The appeal of playing for Friedgen stemmed in part to the coach having successfully taught and schemed at the pro level. The interest in Wisconsin, returning to a pro-style offense and following the path of another ACC transfer, Russell Wilson.
The reason for Catawaba, well, the high school coach explained some. Getting to play right away explains more.
For whatever is left of O'Brien's football playing career, perhaps the move back home and down a level is for the best. It's just not where anyone back in 2010 imagined he would end up.