O'Connell was a two-way standout for the Crusader football teams of the early 1930's. During his four seasons, Holy Cross posted a 26-11-5 record. He served as captain of the 1931 squad. He also played for the Crusader baseball team, playing shortstop for Jack Barry's team. After graduation he coached at the high school level, but remained involved with the college. He was a founding member of the Varsity Club, and served as the club's secretary, treasurer and president.