He actually played in his first three games as a true freshman before tearing an ankle ligament that resulted in him being redshirted. "That was pretty tough. It was depressing, but I got a redshirt year and it gave me time to develop. If I had not got hurt, I wouldn't be here this year," Conner said.
Conner didn't need long to realize his evaluation of playing at Kentucky was right. He says after his first preseason camp, he knew he was as good as scholarship players and only needed a chance to prove his worth. "I was real nervous coming in, but I stayed confident and knew after the first camp I could eventually compete for a starting job, and I did," he said. His reputation grew among teammates. Former UK linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who now plays for the Denver Broncos, remembers trying to avoid going against Conner in one-on-one drills.
"There's nobody I have gone against in the NFL that blocks like him," Woodyard said. Linebacker coach Chuck Smith laughs as he recalls veteran linebackers tricking younger players into getting in line for drills where they would be paired with Conner. "The older guys learn how to avoid him," Smith said.
Conner laughs at those stories before acknowledging that practicing against players like Woodyard, Braxton Kelley and Micah Johnson has made him better. "Going against guys like them has helped me become a better fullback myself. I try to get as physical as possible and play to the best of my ability every play in practice and games," Conner said. "I know sometimes guys try to avoid me. But whoever steps up to go against me, I like to go against them and take them on as hard as possible."