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November 24, 2006
Battle-tested Conner has nothing to prove
Omarr Conner came into his senior season expecting to be the go-to guy in the Bulldog air attack. Mike Henig went down last week late in the fourth quarter and Conner's number was once again called upon to bail the Bulldogs out. Injuries and inexperience have devastated the Bulldogs quarterbacks of 2006, but with Henig being injured, Conner now gets a chance to finish his last game in a Mississippi State uniform at home.
Conner was rated as the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the country and was the No. 5 overall prospect in the state of Mississippi according to Rivals.com. He decided on the Bulldogs after seriously considering West Virginia, as Ole Miss was never really considered a contender in his mind. His Bulldog career will end Saturday in the annual Egg Bowl between Mississippi State and Ole Miss, but Conner thinks his career in Starkvegas will be remembered for his experiences.
"My career at Mississippi State has been a good one. I have had my ups and my downs; I think I proved a lot of people were wrong, a lot of people thought I would not make it here. I came in as a freshman, and started as a receiver, my sophomore year I started as a quarterback, my junior and senior year I played both quarterback and wide receiver. I just got a chance; I am thankful that the good Lord smiled on me and gave me a blessing to give something back to my hometown and give my mother something to be happy and smile about," he said.
Conner was a can't-miss prospect coming out of high school, and Coach Sherrill and his staff made it their business to keep talent like Conner instate. A coaching change came, but Conner was still a mainstay in the new head coach's mind.
"Coach Sherrill was a great coach. The times I played under Coach Sherrill were great; I got a chance to learn from guys like Ray Ray Bivens, Justin Jenkins, McKinley Scott as they took me under their wings and taught me the ropes. When Coach Croom came in, I really started to develop as a man. I had one year with Coach Sherrill and I was an 18-year-old freshman then. Coach Croom has molded me the last three years, and I think he has made me a man and made me mature as a person," Conner commented.
Conner could be considered a local in terms of his hometown proximity to Starkville.
"What can I say about the city of Starkville and the Bulldog fans?" Conner asked.
"They are great people; I grew up in Macon, which close to Starkville. I have been coming to Starkville since my days in high school. Coming to Mississippi State, I got a chance to be around those people who knew me in Macon and they have made these four years some of the best in my life. As we have been struggling over the years, the fans have embraced us and been behind us the whole time. I know we have not had the best of years, but after every game the fans tell me to keep my head and that they are behind us. That is the character of the Bulldog program and its fans that have made me feel at home," he said.
It takes some special individuals to go through what Conner has gone through and still keep his head up, but all the credit he has received goes back to his mother and his upbringing.
"My mother is the one. It is hard to go through what we have been through and to be able to keep coming to practice with a smile on our face. The best I have is when I call home and check on home, and my mom is doing good. That is what keeps a smile on my face, I have never come to practice depressed, and even though things did not go the way I have always wanted. I have always tried to keep my teammates up, because I knew I was going to be alright. When I come out here energetic, the coaches see that, my teammates see that, the media even sees it and it uplifts everybody, but all that is a reflection on my mother and my family," he explained.
Normally when a team has gone through what the Bulldog seniors have went through, you would think a team would spread apart and become individuals, but has not been the case with this special group.
"Quinton Culberson, Deljuan Robinson, Bryson Davis, and Joey Sanders, Michael Heard, Jeramie Johnson has made my job easier. I came in from high school thinking it was just going to be Joey and I, and that I had to look out for him, but that has not been the case. After being here and going through the tough times with guys like Eric Butler and the rest of my teammates, I have embraced them guys. It is going to hard not being with those guys next year, as I will have to move on with my life, and they will still be here," Conner said while smiling.
Early in the season, questions were beginning go around about where the Bulldog program was headed under Coach Croom, but to get proof of the improvement you would only have to look at the Bulldogs' last couple of games.
"Coach Croom is the guy, and he is doing his thing. He had a vision for Mississippi State that only he could imagine. Nobody understood it at first, not even the guys on the team, but he told us some things when he first got here that are starting to become reality. I can remember that first meeting like it was yesterday. He got us going in the right direction, and I think a lot of guys believe. He got the fans looking forward to the future with some of things he is doing with recruiting and that is where it starts," he replied.
Conner got his wish in a untimely manner last week as starting quarterback Michael Henig re-injured his collarbone last week.
"It felt good being out there after being out of action for five weeks. Just being back on the field for my last game on Scott Field," he commented.
Conner is the only Bulldog quarterback with experience, as the others behind him have not even thrown a pass in college.
"I told Coach Croom, for him I will go. It was an unfortunate situation with Mike, but we got to suck it up and do what we been doing all year. It is my last game and I am just going to come out and give it my all and I know my guys will feed off of it."
"I seen Mike go down, but I did not think he was hurt. I thought he just took a hit and I thought he would shake it off. Coach Jones called my name and my heart dropped. After the first two quarters, I thought I would not get a chance to play because of the way we were driving the ball and putting drives together. I had been preparing mentally the whole time while I was out with the injury, but sometimes you got to be ready for the unexpected and I was ready for it. I knew if Mike went down, that Coach Croom would go with me. He called my number and I went out and played," Conner said.
The Bulldogs have been doing well offensively the last couple of weeks, and last week the Bulldogs did not give up a sack against an experienced Arkansas defense.
"We should have been doing the things we are doing now as far as playing well offensively. The coaches started to understand guys strengths and weaknesses better and they adjusted. Guys like Jaymel Smith, Tony Burks, and Aubrey Bell, Anthony Dixon have taken it upon themselves to make this offense better. The guys just stepped up and started to play like they are capable of playing," he said smiling.
One game left is left for Conner and his teammates to go out a winner and that is what they have been focusing on most.
"If he calls on me to go four quarters, I am going. My motto is if you are going to go, go all out. The guys know what I bring to the table, and that I am a gamer. I always tell my guys, fourteen on the field, number one in your heart." Conner concluded