Little warrior

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James O’Hagan’s favorite superhero is Captain America.

The senior center has been a fan of comic books his whole life and fell in love with Captain America at age five. Almost 20 years later, you can find O’Hagan walking around UB wearing a Captain America ski mask during the winter.

O’Hagan, with his big bushy beard, long blonde hair and contagious smile does not line up with the clean cut look of Captain America, but internally they value the same things. Coaches and teammates have praised O’Hagan for his work ethic, as he strengthens the rest of his teammates as a team captain.

“I'm only 6 foot 2 inches and that's really short for an offensive lineman, so I take it as kind of a chip on my shoulder,” O’Hagan said. “Any of my coaches ask, I call myself ‘little warrior' sometimes. Whenever a guy has really long arms and I just try to sit in there and fight. That's definitely something I hang my hat on. I might not have all the physical gifts, but I work my tail off to be the best I can be.”

Football was not his best sport growing up, but it was his passion.

Coming out of Seaford High School, he was the number one heavyweight wrestler in New York. He had the opportunity to go to numerous Big Ten schools for wrestling. O’Hagan sacrificed the opportunity to go to one of those schools and live in a big college environment for his dream, according to junior offensive lineman Tomas Jack-Kurdyla.

O’Hagan’s only football offer was from Buffalo.

“I've been fortunate enough to know Jimmy since he started here and his growth has been phenomenal,” said offensive line coach Daryl Agpalsa. “When people see that and the body of work he's put together they know he knows what he is doing. They raise their game and they level up because he is such a catalyst to our program.”

Captain America or Steve Rogers was born from a scrawny kid with heart. Rogers was transformed into the captain from a super serum to create the ideal human with super strength, speed, agility and intelligence. One of Captain America’s biggest strengths is his ability to be an expert tactician and field commander. 

As the center, O’Hagan is the offensive line’s field commander.

O’Hagan has been the starting center from the moment he stepped on the field. He allowed 20 quarterback pressures his freshman year but only four combined in his sophomore and junior seasons. He has not allowed a sack since week 10 of the 2015 season.

Agpalsa describes O’Hagan as a protector. He said O’Hagan is a “complete fanatic” and consumes himself in football and Captain America because it tears at his heartstrings.

O’Hagan is inspired by his family. His love for America comes from his family’s service in the military. O’Hagan’s great-grandfather is a World War II veteran who served in the Philippines while his grandfather was enlisted during the Vietnam War. 

On his left shoulder, O’Hagan has a tattoo of a bald eagle in front of a waving American flag.

“Growing up I've always loved this country no matter what bad or good happens for it,” O’Hagan said. “I feel like the American values are something to believe in. That's why I have this on my arm. There are so many people out there that have done more for this country that I have and that's why I respect them so much.”

He even makes sure to visit All American Hamburger Drive In when he returns home.

Buffalo plays Army this weekend. Army is one of the only independent schools in the Football Bowl Subdivision and every player is a West Point Cadet. If an athlete wants to play professionally, they must serve time in the military first.

This is the third-straight year the two programs match up. O’Hagan wants to beat Army when the Bulls get on the field Saturday but has tremendous respect for the school and athletes.

From the minute O’Hagan stepped onto campus, he tried to do more, according to head coach Lance Leipold. He watches extra film, works hard and spends a lot of time in the athletics facilities. 

“It says a lot about the type of man he is and the type he's going to be in the future, Agpalsa said. “I think he's always been categorized as an underdog. You're never big enough, not athletic enough, not smart enough, not strong enough and for him all he did was use that to fuel his fire to be great.”

Without any super solider serums, James O’Hagan has become UB’s Captain America.

Nathaniel Mendelson is the sports editor and can be reached at nathaniel.mendelson@ubspectrum.com or on Twitter @NateMendelson

NATHANIEL MENDELSON


 Nathaniel Mendelson has been writing for The Spectrum since 2018, mainly covering football, men's basketball and softball. He currently works for The Buffalo News and has a daily article on buffalobills.com. Other responsibilities include managing the office fish tank.