NASHVILLE – Titans quarterbacks coach Pat O'Hara has lived a blessed life, involved in a game he loves, surrounded by people he loves, for as far back as he can remember.
But it the back of his mind, as an adoptee, there was always something missing.
Until just recently.
Born and raised west of downtown Los Angeles, O'Hara was a star quarterback at Santa Monica High School. From there he attended USC, where he played well enough to be selected in the NFL Draft.
As a player, O'Hara spent 16 seasons on teams in the NFL, the Arena Football League and the World League. Over the years, he's also appeared in movies about football, including The Waterboy, Any Given Sunday, and The Game Plan.
He's also a long-time coach.
Today, O'Hara in his fourth season coaching QBs for the Titans, where he tutors veteran Ryan Tannehill and the team's other quarterbacks. His life-long passion for the game – and the profession – is evident from his many coaching stops, which began in high school and continued from the AFL to eventually the NFL.
Without question, O'Hara's football journey has been a long and rewarding one.
And so, too, was his search for his birth mother.
It's a search that recently ended for O'Hara, in life-changing fashion.
And the 52-year-old O'Hara is proud to tell his story.
"I could write a book on it," O'Hara said with a smile. "It is hard to describe the feeling, especially at my age, to find out now. I don't know if it has taken a huge load off my shoulders, but I feel different in a positive way.
"You always wonder as an adoptee about things, and it is hard to explain unless you are an adoptee. But my experience has definitely been a great one, and I have a whole new respect for not only my birth mother, but my mom and dad, who are no longer with us. They were amazing people, and I wish that they could have been a part of me meeting my birth mother."
During a social media post on July 11, O'Hara posted a picture with his birth mother, with the following caption:
"It took half a century to find and connect with this amazing woman. So blessed and thankful to meet my birthmother who is beautiful inside and out. The strongest person I've ever met. Thank you for giving me life and accepted me after all these years…I love you! #ImAnAdoptee"
Following a recent training camp practice, O'Hara provided the background on his search, and the meeting.
He knows his life will never be the same because of it.
Understand, O'Hara found more than just his birth mother – he found a big family in Long Island, New York.
"I've always known I was adopted," O'Hara said. "I grew up on Santa Monica and ended up going to USC, and I found out the adoption agency was a mile from campus. I went over there when I was 18 years old and tried to get some information, and I wasn't allowed to get it. So, the search began.
"There was a lot in between there, a lot of searching. But I found my birth mother, and my whole family from Long Island. It's incredible, really."
At the end of his search, O'Hara said he discovered his birth mother was very young and frightened when she had him on September 27, 1968.
She never told anyone about him.
After years and years of looking, O'Hara was able to locate her, he said.
But even then, it took a lot of dialogue before she was willing to meet with him.
"There was some apprehension on her part – she had never told anybody," O'Hara said. "So, over the last year-and-a-half, there were a lot of phone conversations, working through things. And she was finally at a point where she was ready to meet."
On July 4, O'Hara and his family – his wife, Billie, and his two boys, Tyler and Trace – flew to New York for the meeting.
He'll never forget what happened next.
"It was a blur," O'Hara recalled. "It really was really a blur, because I look exactly like her. It is hard to describe, really. I am still kind of at a loss for words.
"I found my birth mother, and a whole family from New York that I didn't even know about, and they are wonderful. … Being able to reunite with her, and her meeting my kids, her grandchildren. I have a brother, a sister in New York, a half-brother, half-sister, niece, nephews, just wonderful people up in Long Island. My kids now know who their grandmother is, biologically. It has just been a great experience.
"What's beautiful is my experience in reuniting with my birth mother has been unbelievable. It's an A-plus."
O'Hara said he's stayed in touch with his birth mother on a regular basis since.
The family is planning to attend the Titans game against the New York Jets in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on October 3, and already plans are being made for a vacation next summer.
When O'Hara met his birth mother, she was wearing a gold necklace with the letter 'M' engraved on it.
Her name is Melissa.
Or, to him, "Mom."
"She is wonderful, a really amazing person," O'Hara said. "She is so strong to do what she did.
"All of this, it has completely changed my life right now. I really do have whole new respect for a lot of things. I have a whole new family, and a pretty large family. My parents have passed away, and my sister passed away. So, it is just me and my sister from the family I grew up in. So, now it is just kind of neat to have a whole group of people that are just wonderful. They're family, and it is just a really neat thing."