CORTLAND, N.Y.- The New York Jets have been the toast of the NFL for the past year; From an improbable run to the AFC Championship game, to their flurry of superstar additions in the off season, to the heavily covered on-going disputes with All-Pro corner Darrelle Revis, to the HBO documentary series “Hard Knocks” following them around for the duration of training camp.
While there are many players who have been soaking up the spotlight, there is a blue collar player providing his own type of hard knocks, with the hopes of shedding light on a position that’s been doomed since the Dark Ages of football.
Unfazed by the attention of the media, 23-year-old John Conner just picks up his hardhat and punches in to his position of fullback.
“He has a talent for running through people,” said Rex Ryan today. “That’s what this kid brings to the table.”
Ryan noticed him on the very first day marveling at the way the rookie was knocking people around, earning him the nickname, “The Terminator”. What could be a better name for a bruising lead back like Conner? His style of play pays homage to some of the greats ala Frank Gifford and Larry Csonka. His grind-it-out, smash-mouth style is something that causes Ryan to salivate at the thought of sending Conner to clear a path for fellow bruising back, Shonn Greene.
“I think he had the best hit of the year today,” said Ryan. “It was on an “Iso Draw” where [Conner] isolates on a linebacker. And, man, it was great to watch.”
As it is always fun to see the young guys, like Conner, perform early, he has to beat out 16-year veteran Tony Richardson. Once again, Conner finds himself trying to find some space in the light. Richardson was brought in (along with LaDanian Tomlinson) to help groom a young backfield as well do what he has done best for the last 16 years, pave a road his halfback.
However, Conner, a fifth-round pick from Kentucky, has taken the necessary steps to prove that he does belong in the starting backfield. “There’s absolutely a chance [Conner] could start. Tony’s obviously a very talented and experienced guy, but he is being pushed by this kid,” admitted Ryan today at a post-practice press conference. “[Conner’s] definitely turning heads.”
“The Terminator” is cracking skulls as well as turning heads. Throughout training camp, he has been relentless on the pursuit, no matter the situation. Whether it’s Bart Scott or Jason Taylor or Ben Renkart (who was the unfortunate linebacker that Conner had his best hit of the year on) he rears back, lowers his shoulder and boulders onward to the next victim. And if it isn’t on the offensive end, it’s covering kick-offs as well. It’s been noted that he has been exceptional running down kicks, splitting the double teams, and getting to the return man.
But at the end of the day, John “The Terminator” Conner is just another blue collar worker trying to get ahead in a position where a little attention is rewarded, but also not necessary. “He’s just doing what he’s supposed to do,” Ryan pointed out. “[He’s] going full speed at it and trying to take a job home with him.” Now that would be something for him to hang his hard hat on.