Do You Know Connor Rogers?

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Connor with his dad attending a Mets game

Do You Know Connor Rogers?

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There are more than a few ways a fanatic such as myself can thoroughly enjoy the game of football. But, no matter how I find myself enjoying the game, I’ve always considered myself a consistently growing and maturing student of the game.  As a student of the game, every aspect of the game interests me in every way.  There isn’t a feature, facet, detail, side or characteristic of the game that simply doesn’t interest me in any and every way.

Football.  It’s an immensely entertaining sport to watch.  An incredible spectacle un-matched in popularity and other areas, by any other sport here in this country.  America’s new past time? I would likely say so myself, but there’s certainly a debate to had there.  Entertaining? Yes – but it helps to be somewhat familiar with the execution within the game from every aspect and standpoint.  It helps, more times than not, to understand the reasons you are enjoying the greatest sport in this country.  It helps to understand the logic behind loving a sport that, on the surface, can incorporate immensely complex schemes in pretty much all phases of the game.

Over the decades -- The game of football has transition from a brute sport to a real life game of physical chess.

Over the decades — The game of football has transition from a brute sport to a real life game of physical chess.

It’s a sport, a game that exhibits and incorporates complex strategy, techniques, schemes and positions – a game in which logic and critical thinking can actually give you a tactical advantage over your opponent.  It’s more than just well conditioned athletes competing against one another — the game, over the years, has completely transformed into a real life chess match on grass/turf.

Football – A game that, if watched the way I and most other students of the game watch it, can quickly lose you in the quicksands of the complexity that’s entrenched in the depths of football offensive and defensive concepts and schemes and ultimately into the stirring world-winds of technicalities, strategies and mis-understood rules.

Yes — A game as entertaining and popular as football is more than a game that’s just entertaining and popular.  So when you run across minds of the game that can adequately help guide you through those stirring world-winds, you tend to follow.  I’ve followed Connor Rogers for quite some time now. Do you know him? If you love football the way I love football, you should probably know him.  I know him, quite well actually.  Well — I know him well enough to know that he’s one of the brightest young minds in the business right now and that’s no hyperbole.

Connor carries himself well and at 23 years of age, impresses you with his knowledge of the game from players to plays from schemes to strategies.  It’s not hard to catch the impassioned and sincere sentiments that he consistently shares about the game and all that surrounds it.  When you speak with Connor, he’s confident but slightly profound with his analysis and opinions while carefully wrapping logic and substance loosely around them.

Hailing from Orange County, New York, Connor recently graduated from University of Albany with a Degree in Business Administration.  A Business Admin Major that is certainly no stranger to competitive sports – a competitive athlete in more than one sport.

“Throughout my whole life I played sports,” Connor proudly states. “But, when I got to college, I realized I wasn’t as good a D-1 athlete in the sports that I love like I initially believed.  In high school, I played lacrosse all year round, but knew I wasn’t going to go D1 — Sports like lacrosse and football, I’ve always loved, but I wasn’t as competitive as I wanted to be.”

” I started training in competitive weight lifting with a coach while earning  my degree, it was then I became a competitive power lifter in the USAPL Division.  I competed for about two and a half years in the 148 weight class and transitioned to the 165 weight class.  I won both meets in the 148 weight class, so I was highly competitive.”

Although Connor admits that his favorite sport to play and coach is Lacrosse, he confesses that the sport that he loves to study as a fan and a student of the game, is football.

“I was four when I was first introduced to the sport of football — right away I loved it.” Connor smiles as he reminisces. “I loved playing all sports while growing up, but I couldn’t get enough of football.  My Dad and my uncles are responsible for introducing me to the game.  My dad and I would be outside throwing the ball around and when you’re young, you never forget those moments.

Connor competed and garnered much success as a Power Lifter in the USAPL.

Connor competed and garnered much success as a Power Lifter in the USAPL.

“Both my dad and uncle were Jets season ticket holders.  I was introduced to the Jets team early.  It was around 1995 when I went to my first Jets game, I was four years of age. My dad would take me to preseason games and when I got older, he started taking me to regular season Jets games.”

The game of football isn’t just something Connor enjoys as a fan, it is something that has gradually gravitated towards him over the years in it’s most technical form of existence.  Over the past few years or so, football in every aspect and detail has slowly and somewhat methodically, settled within the depths of Connor’s subconscious, subsequently setting up a solid foundation in the rooms of his mind, surrounded by well used logic, critical thinking and overall analytical creativity.

He’s a simple man, that provides simple yet logical and well thought out answers to the most technical of questions regarding the game of football.

I asked Connor his thoughts on one of the hottest “debates” in football over the past few years or so.  I wanted to know, from his standpoint, which college football system truly makes it easier for a QB to transition to the Pros or if the debate was pointless, fruitless and overall irrelevant.

“I think it is one of those debates that is irrelevant.” Connor explained. “When you talk about the system, it starts to dilute the potential within the player himself.  The player either has it or he doesn’t, it’s really that simple.  But, preparation and readiness is key.  When you look at most guys coming out, they shouldn’t be playing right away, but in the league and the way it’s structured now, there’s no rebuilding and the bottom line is that some of these guys have to play right away from day one.”

“But, its all about what the QBs are asked to do in college and that, in my opinion, is more important than the system itself.  A guy could be in a spread system he could be asked to do more than a guy in a pro style system  or vice versa.  In most cases, pro style may run more and rely heavily on the run and ask the QB to make simple throws or they may have him making all the throws.”

I asked him, was there any difference though? Like — truly any meaningful difference in the two philosophies that can drastically impact a prospect’s abilities in the pros?

“It’s not about the system,” Connor quickly replied. “It’s about the coach and its about what the prospect can or can’t do – his limitations.  When you’re looking at the spread or the “Pro Style” offense, it’s a matter of what they are asking the QB to do.

“You look at a guy like Bryce Petty when he came out of  Baylor vs a QB like Jameis.  While in school, Petty was only asked to make really just a couple different reads for the entire game plan.  He never really relied on going to his second and third reads – he looks at the first guy and hits him.   Whereas, you have a QB like Jameis where there really wasn’t any limitations there.  He’s a guy that goes through all of his reads while being athletic enough to run with the ball.”

I shared with Connor my belief that the college football recruitment process consisted of a dedicated focus and concentration on certain attributes found in athletic, dual-threat QBs, a sentiment he agreed with.  But, the question that remained; how does a QB with a certain skill set, a dual-threat QB, decide or determine which offensive system to commit to?

“Most of the guys they are recruiting now into colleges are more athletes than anything else.” Connor paused briefly as he gathered his thoughts and continued.  “When you look at a guy that has the arm to make the throw, but the brain isn’t exactly up to speed with the level of play, they’ll typically ask him to make one read and run or read and go to the check down — something coaches will determine when recruiting said prospect.  But, for the most part, a prospect and parents of course, has to sit down with the coaches and ask them what they are going to do for him.  He has to truly understand if they recognizes his certain skill set and attributes.  It’s important that the prospect recognizes what the coaches can do for him as a player and how they can help fully maximize his skill set no matter what offensive system they are utilizing.  The prospect has to worry about themselves.  They have to ask the coaches — “what can you do for me? — This is more important than deciding where to go based primarily on an offensive philosophy.”

Connor competed in Lacrosse, but eventually realized it wasn't for him on the collegiate level.

Connor competed in Lacrosse, but eventually realized it wasn’t for him on the collegiate level.

At this point and as it stands right now, football in it’s purest form has shifted and slightly transformed into a chess match of sorts.  A game of critical thinking and strategic advantages and disadvantages — far cry from the days in which teams simply pitched and ran for the endzones.  But what’s next for the sport in its entirety?  I wanted to know if Connor believed that the game itself, on all levels, was starting to transition to any particular style or system over the next decade or so?  Was it inevitable that the sport itself may look completely different by 2025 or was I overthinking it?

“It’s not illogical to think that way,” Connor replied. “Over the past ten or so years, the league has transitioned to a pass happy league.  We’ve seen some of the better passers in our time just within the last couple of the years. I’m talking natural throwers like Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and even Russell Wilson who, in his on right, is turning into a really good natural passer.  You now see these guys who can run those pass happy offenses and who can live and die by throwing it 35-40 times a game, that’s where we are now.”

“But, I think we’ll eventually hit a wall with that,” Connor continued. ” Everyone is saying that the future of the NFL is that teams will have to be able to throw the ball non stop to make plays.  When you look at how it goes, I believe that the curve will dip back from the trending passing offenses to the power run offense that can throw the ball. I think it’s going to eventually revert back to when teams operated their efficient offenses by building off the run.”

Connor’s point gets somewhat deeper than I was expecting, but its logic quickly wrapped itself around me and force me to quickly understand where he was trying to go.  It stems from a belief that we are witnessing one of the greatest eras in QB passing and conventional wisdom (people like Connor and I) suggests that discovering or even developing elite QBs is becoming more difficult a task.

“NFL teams are going to have to eventually circumvent for the high number of failed top QB prospects coming into the league.” he continued. “Not every player is going to turn into Aaron Rodgers — you don’t’ get that elite prospect every year — just doesn’t happen like that.  You truly don’t even really get that type of prospect every three years. It’s probably more like every five years.  So that number suggests that as head coach or offensive coordinator, if you aren’t the lucky one with an already elite QB, you’re going to have to utilize an offensive system that you can compete and win with on a high level. ”

“It’s not that difficult when you think about it.  Look at the Seahawks with Russell Wilson who has turned into really good QB. They built a defense, but more importantly the built a running game around Wilson, one that has allowed the offense to get by with average to sub-par players on the outside.  Again, teams won’t always have the chance at an elite QB, but my overall point is — middle of the pack QBs that can win games will be just as important.  Teams will be able to supply their QBs with talented running backs that can make an average QB into a winning QB and can help usher a team into the playoffs. If I’m running a team, I focus my attention on this instead of trying to hunt down the “next” elite QB.  If one drops into your lap, great — but there is a more feasible and logical way to build a competitive team and this is something I believe plays into the reverting back to teams trying to compete on high levels by establishing power and even finesse running teams.”

Doesn’t take long to realize Connor is sharp for a young mind.   A young mind that incorporates logic and critical thinking in every aspect and facet of the game.  This was something that I’ve always believed to be true about Connor, but something that certainly stood out to me the more I conversed with him. I was immensely curious on his thoughts on the NFL as an organization as a corporation.  I asked him, if he were suddenly made the Commissioner of the NFL, to give me the top three things he would look to change immediately upon garnering the highest position in the NFL.

Connor with his dad attending a Mets game

Connor with his dad attending a Mets game.

“First thing,” Connor quickly stated. “Would be to stop with the stupid rules that lead to even stupider fines.  Can’t throw a football in the stands.  Thousands in fines when a player hands a fan a football- stupid. Those nagging rules is turning the league into a robotic league. Taking away the personality from players that need to show it.  A kid that receives that ball can have his entire outlook on the game and even on life changed instantly.  We have these players on TV with a helmet, no one knows who they are underneath the helmet.  They are looked at as human missiles on the defensive end and track stars on the offensive end.  They need to have personality and need to show that, handing a fan a ball exemplifies their personality.”

” The NFL seems to nitpick in trying to eliminate personality from the league, that’s a huge issue and those types of rules need to be eliminated.”

“Second thing — I would sit down with some of the smartest minds in science and in the related fields and come up with a better way to preserve the game, but protect the players.  Player safety is going in the right direction, but it needs to get better and the NFL has left a lot to be desired in that area.”

“Finally,” Connor uttered pondering on his thoughts. ” There has to be a better more efficient way to reroute players, after retirement, to sustainable post NFL careers.  Yes, guys can save more money and be more responsible, but really only the five – ten year players can adequately and wisely (if they are responsible enough to do so) save their money.  But, what about the guys that only make it through a few camps? — Guys that only play a few years?  They left school early and don’t have a degree and don’t know anything but football? The league needs to find a way to reroute them back on their education.”

” There needs to be some type of program dedicated for this — a program that either effectively steers them into coaching or steers them back into college with some sort of job placement program.  Colleges and college coaches should emphasize this early — yes, but the NFL has to find a better way to emphasize that as well.  It’s imperative to help these guys that are going in and out of the league and that are playing such a dangerous game.”

Connor’s mentioning of player safety led me to the topic of concussions and it’s impact on the league today and in the future.  The fact that, based on a report, a number of deceased NFL players were found to have suffered from CTE, a degenerative brain disease.  Is there a possibility that if player safety, as it pertains to concussions, isn’t addressed adequately, the NFL itself can find itself no longer in existence years from now?
“I think it’s gonna open up the eyes of the average fan to how much an issue concussions really are. I don’t think the league is ever going away.  I think its a very serious issue and there isn’t a such thing as overreacting to it.  I think the league will find ways to protect the players going forward, but they should embrace the discussion and embrace the issue head on instead of dismissing it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, its going to take a while, I only hope they are proactively attempting to address it instead of reactively.”

I, like Connor, find myself concerned that the NFL may be reacting instead of proactively attacking the concussion issue but, I too believe they will eventually be left with no choice but to adequately address the issue, if they aren’t already at that place right now.

All that aside — I was curious as to where Connor saw himself twenty years from now.  Obviously there is a lot, as a young mind, that he has to offer and share with the world right now, but where did he see himself years from now? I shared with him what I saw him doing years from now.  I shared with him that I believed the position he was destined for, they probably didn’t have a name or a title for it yet.  I was slightly joking, but I wasn’t.

“I would like to be a director of scouting for a team somewhere,” Connor smiles as he says this. ” If that cant happen, I would love to remain in the media in some way or facet, primarily a draft analyst, but the biggest impact that I believe I can have is behind the scenes in a front office.  Doing the dirty work and being the director of scouting.  I believe that’s where I’ll have the most impact twenty years from now.”

Connor believes he has a lot to offer NFL teams from behind the scenes.

Connor believes he has a lot to offer NFL teams from behind the scenes.

I immediately shared with Connor that I thought he was selling himself short.  In a sense, he could offer a team those kind of services now.  I told him that I believed that he has much more to offer not only the game of football and teams themselves, but everyone else that enjoys the game and that look to feed that hunger within, that craving for more understanding and more knowledge regarding the game and all that it offered.  He smiled, modestly but I knew he agreed with my sentiments or thought I was crazy — one of the two.

I gave Connor the choice of becoming an offensive or defensive coordinator.  I was curious as to where in the technical stage, as far as designing and execution, did his heart and head found themselves.

“I would say the defensive side.” he uttered behind a confident smile. “Drawing up offenses is probably one of the hardest jobs in sports.  I’m not an expert in the Xs and Os as I’m still learning in that category.  The more I talk to the people that are experts in those respective areas, the more I realize I have a lot to learn.  I for one truly believe you really have to play at a high level of competitive football in order to understand certain concepts or develop certain concepts. No matter what side of the ball you’re looking to coach or design plays for.  Watching plays and watching players execute plays is one thing but developing and designing them is a whole other monster.  I just think I would be more comfortable on the defensive side.  When you look at the defensive side, not that its clear cut or easy, but I’ve seen a lot of it and I’ve watched, scouted, studied and dedicated a lot of my time to a great deal of it and it’s something that has resonated within more much more easier than offensive schemes.”

Connor is only 23, but we’re never too old or young for regrets in life. Does he have any? I asked.  I asked him, if he could run into Connor from fifteen years ago, what would he tell him? What would that conversation consist of?

“I don’t have a lot of regrets, but I would just tell him that he’s always going to be wrong more than he thinks, but if he’s willing to accept that, it will help him grow the most.  It’s hard accept being wrong when you are young and stupid, but I think you become a lot smarter when you realize you don’t know more than everyone else and you have room to grow within yourself.  I would sit him down and share that with him.”

There’s a lot that we can, should and will learn from Connor.  If you enjoy the game of football in it’s entirety like I do, then you will gain a ton of insight and information from Connor that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else from someone as young as he.  True — Connor is young, so there is room for quite of bit of growth and maturity within him, something he himself is looking forward to.  There is room for his philosophies, strategies and thoughts to expand, shift and change in a way that will make it easier for people to see in him at said time what I see in him right now.  Connor is a fan of the sport in ways that makes it easier for him to share all that he’s learned as a student of the sport.  I will continue to learn from him, you should to, but you can’t if you don’t know him.

Do you know Connor Rogers? I do — you probably should as well.

Contact and engage with Connor Rogers on Twitter —

 


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