Last Wednesday Iowa–Grant senior Colin Conner became just the second male athlete in the school’s 53-year history to accept a Division 1 scholarship.
Garrett Jones, who played golf at the University of Wisconsin from 2003–07, was the first.
Surrounded by parents Jim and April Conner, Iowa–Grant head football coach Gary Allen and I–G guidance counselor Lois Peart, Conner signed his National Letter of Intent to play Division I college football next fall at North Dakota State University at an all-school assembly in the IGHS gymnasium.
Prior to Conner officially signing his Letter of Intent, Allen addressed the assembly and spoke of his prized pupil’s work ethic both in and out of the classroom.
“A lot of people start with luck in life, and Colin was blessed with his fair share of luck as far as his genetics and size,” said Allen. “But through a lot of hard work he was able to develop his gifts into where he is now. The biggest reason Colin is in this position to accept a Division I scholarship is all the sacrifices he has made through studying, lifting weights, morning workouts and working hard.
“Right now Colin is the big fish in a small bowl, but when he gets to North Dakota State that will all change. It starts all over and believe it or not he will again be a small fish. But with hard work I know he will develop into a shark, and I’m looking forward to watching it.”
The shy and mostly reserved Conner briefly spoke to the gather crowd thanking his parents for their love and support, his coaches for their leadership, and the entire student body for coming to games and cheering on him and his teammates.
Conner, Conner, a 6-foot-5, 304-pound two-way lineman, passed up full scholarship offers from the University of South Dakota and the University of North Dakota — both Division 1 schools — as well as Division 2 offers from Upper Iowa University, St. Cloud State (Minn.) and Ohio Dominican to accept a 60 percent scholarship from NDSU.
North Dakota State is a FCS, formerly know as Division 1AA, school located in the Fargo, N.D., roughly 490 miles from Conner’s family home in Linden.
The Bison play in the 10-team Missouri Valley Conference are and have recently dominated the FCS winning three straight national championships under head coach Chris Kleiman.
On Jan. 4 NDSU completed a perfect 15–0 season and captured its third consecutive national title with a 1 35–7 victory over Towson University.
The Bison have compiled a 43–2 record in three years under Kleiman and have knocked off a number of Division I Bowl Subdivision teams including Kansas State 24–21 last fall, Colorado State 22–7 in 2012 and Minnesota 37–24 in 2011. NDSU also defeated Kansas, 6–3, in 2010.
Conner first appeared on North Dakota State’s recruiting radar when he was invited to attend a NDSU football camp on June 22.
That camp sparked interest in Conner and formed a relationship with NDSU recruiting coordinator/defensive line coach Nick Goeser.
Goeser stayed in touch with weekly phone calls to Conner to talk about Conner’s seasons (both football and basketball), as well as how school and home life were going.
Conner also attended several other summer camps at Wisconsin, Northern Iowa, Ball State, Upper Iowa, Western Illinois, the Chicagoland Showcase at Northwestern University and the Rivals.com St. Louis recruiting camp, but early on had gut feeling about NDSU.
Conner and his parents attended NDSU’s home opener against Ferris State on Sept. 7 and witnessed the banner raising for the 2012 national championship team.
On Jan. 17–19 Conner returned to Fargo for his official visit and verbally committed to be a Bison.
“When I went for my official visit it just felt like another family to me,” said Conner, who is an only child. “It fits me very well.”
Conner is expected to begin his NDSU career as an offensive tackle, but he also excelled as a defensive end at Iowa–Grant.
Conner was a three-year starter for the Panthers on both sides of the ball earning first-team All-SWAL honors at tackle and defensive end as both a junior and senior. He was also named second-team All-SWAL on the offensive line as a sophomore.
This past fall the honors continued to roll in as Conner was named the SWAL Co-Defensive Player of the Year, the SWAL Co-Lineman of the Year as well as WFCA honorable mention All-State. Conner was also selected to play in the WFCA Small Schools All-Star Game this summer.
He finished his prep career with 148 total tackles, 31 tackles for loss and 14 sacks, while leading the Panthers to a 24–9 record during that time.
As a junior Conner recorded 42 tackles and 10 sacks while helping Iowa–Grant reach the WIAA Division 5 semifinals.
This past fall Conner registered 66 tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks.
“I’m going to miss all the team bonding before and after games,” admitted Conner. “Just being around the guys and playing football with my friends. “But I’m excited and proud to be going to North Dakota State. It’s a chance to play college football and maybe go to the next level if I’m good enough.”