Head coach Charlie Strong, junior center Mario Benavides and junior quarterback Will Stein spoke with the media following the Cardinals’ open preseason practice on Aug. 6.
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Preseason Senior Spotlight: Anthony Conner
By Garett Wall for Inside the Huddle
After an offseason of change inside the Louisville football program following the 2009 season, cornerback Anthony Conner looked ahead to his senior year with great anticipation following the introduction of new Cardinals’ head coach, Charlie Strong.
Energy and excitement had returned to the program, and Conner, who transferred to Louisville from Butte Community College prior to the 2009 season, was ready to contribute to U of L’s resurgence. In his first season as a Cardinal in 2009, Conner played in 10 games with two starts and finished with 16 tackles prior to the knee injury. And knowing Strong’s reputation as one of the best defensive coaches in the nation, Conner was excited for what the Cardinals could achieve in year one.
However, that excitement was tempered during spring drills in 2010 when Conner suffered a torn ACL ending his season more than four months before it even started.
“It was really tough sitting out last season and watching the games from the sidelines because I wanted to be a part of the rebuilding process,” said Conner following Saturday’s open practice session. “Not being a part of that hurt me physically and mentally.”
With feelings of disappointment and frustration fresh in his mind, the 5-foot-11, 190-pound Conner started his rehabilitation soon after his surgery. Despite not being able to make an impact on the field during the Cardinals’ 2010 season, which culminated with a Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl victory, Conner used his time away from the field to become a smarter football player through what he watched from the sidelines.
“I was able to watch the guys who were playing more closely and go deeper in my playbook, which really helped me,” Conner said. “Even though it was tough not being able to play, it really helped me become a smarter player. Being at the bowl game and seeing us have success as a team gave me even more motivation to get back to the field. When you see your teammates succeed, you want to experience that as a player.”
With the departure of starting cornerbacks Johnny Patrick and Bobby Burns from last season, Conner knew there would be openings and opportunities to contribute in 2011. After the native of Houston, Texas, returned to the practice fields in the spring, he started the Cardinals’ preseason fall training camp working with the first team defense. And with a fully healed knee, Conner looks ahead to the Cardinals’ season-opener against Murray State (Sept. 1 at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium) and the entire 2011 season with high expectations.
“It’s exciting to be back and I’m ready to play,” Conner said. “We have confidence through the roof in our teammates and our coaches. We really have a great group on this team and we know we have a lot of great fans behind us. That’s why we work as hard as we do everyday.”
With his knee injury behind him and his senior season on the horizon, Conner is ready to finally get his chance to make an impact in season two of the Cardinals’ resurgence.