Though I've never worked in the front office of an NFL team, I understand how some of those decision-makers get enamored with certain players. While attending the NFLPA Bowl practices this week, I found myself continuously watching one specific wide receiver in the Thursday morning practice.
University of Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley initially caught my eye on Wednesday with a couple of nice catches in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills, and then quickly grabbed my attention again with more stellar plays on Thursday. Big time program, good size (6'3", 205) and some eye-opening plays in practice. But, that's not all that there is to this kid.
Conley is what some may label a "Renaissance Man", given his many talents and endeavors that he has taken on. As you can read in an ESPN feature on Conley last fall, the former Bulldog wideout has a passion for film-making, academics and his Christian faith. His "Star Wars" fan film, "Retribution", has close to 450,000 views on YouTube and Conley himself is the actor as a Sith character.
Conley asserted himself as a big-play guy at Georgia, racking up 36 catches for 657 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. His 18.3 yards per catch as a senior and 20 total touchdowns in his four years play to the fact of him being a big-play threat. In the Belk Bowl against Louisville this year, he led the team with four catches for 80 yards and a touchdown reception. Though you won't find him on some of the top portions of receiver prospect rankings lists, there is a lot to like about No.80 on Mike Martz's National team.
As you'll see and hear in the interview, Conley is a sharp kid with a great head on his shoulders to go with the abilities he has on the field. Perhaps his head coach, Mark Richt said it best in the ESPN feature: "I think everybody who's ever met him wants to hire him. Whoever coaches him is going to fall in love with this guy, because of his ability, because of his coachability, because of his leadership, how he'll affect the locker room."
AC: Great practice today. So, I understand that you have a couple of interesting endeavors outside of football. You're interested in film and whatnot, right? Talk a little bit about that.
CC: Yeah. While I was in college, you always have to have a backup plan. You always have to know what you want to do when you're off the field. Being at a school like Georgia, football is very important, but you always have to have a backup. I found out that I had an interest in film and just started to learn about it. It's a learning process and how to create the art and tell people stories, visually. Visual storytelling, audible storytelling, Things like that. I just really took to it and enjoyed it. It's something that I'm keeping in my back pocket and in the corners of my mind. it's about gathering stories from your experiences and creating something. You have to make the viewer feel something.
AC: That's awesome. Going to on the field, how has the week gone and what's it like being coached by all of these NFL legends throughout the week?
CC: You know, it's been a blessing. First off, just to have that kind of coaching experience, to be able to play in this game, first and foremost, they make selections and they have a recruiting office to find players to do this and not everyone gets to, so it's a huge blessing. But then, also, the on the field coaching has been extraordinary. You come out, day one, and things are kind of shaky, learning an offense and a brand new playbook and you've got to learn it in three days. Having that kind of coaching, that kind of expertise, on the little things--you know, it really comes down to the little things at this level--everyone here is talented, they wouldn't be here if they weren't. What separates people and what makes the difference in making a play, catching the ball, dropping it, having a DB being there to break it up is the little things. Those vets have all of the advice, you know they played in those situations, they've been where you want to go, so their wisdom is invaluable.
AC: I saw that you had very little time doing some returns, punt returns, kickoff returns (both in practice and in college games), is that something that you're looking to do at the next level?
CC: Kickoff returns? If they want me to, yeah (smiles) I'll do it. I like to think that I'm a guy who can run, but I'll be ready to help out whatever team it is on any special teams. Whether that's returns, whether it's covering, I just want to play.
AC: The Bengals seem to really like the Georgia boys--I don't know if you're familiar with that or not. Is there anything that you've seen or heard about a relationship with the coaches there and with the coaching staff of the Bengals?
CC: Just from guys that I've talked to who play for the Bengals, you know, they say that they love it up there. It seems like [the Bengals] really do like the Georgia guys. The way that they come out polished, the way that they are coached, I think that that speaks well of our University, it speaks well to the way that we practice and it makes it easier for those guys to transition. It's great that they are doing great up there--I have a couple of friends who play on the team right now and I wish them the best and hope they do really well. Who knows what kind of relationship that is? I'm not really privy to that (smiles), but they seem to like the Bulldogs, more than a lot of them.
AC: Yeah, well, it's a great school, great program. Like I said, great practice today and good luck Saturday--good luck throughout the whole process.
CC: Appreciate it.
Though nothing I saw at practice was quite as impressive as below, he has been making difficult catches look routine.