Illinois Kicker Joins Spartan Family

"(Coach Mark Dantonio) is a great guy, he really is. You can talk to him easily, say what's on your mind, and he respects ... your opinion." - Dan Conroy

Dan Conroy possessed a deep desire to be a Spartan. So much so, he turned down a scholarship to obtain preferred walk-on status at Michigan State.

"I had a full ride scholarship offer to Western Michigan at the beginning of this year," Conroy said. "But my dad went to Michigan State, and I really like the institution there, so I chose to go that route and hopefully pick up a scholarship there."

What exactly is a preferred walk-on?

"The preferred walk-on ... is kind of when the coach tells you that they don't necessarily have a scholarship for you, or they don't need to give a scholarship at that position, so they might just ask you to be a preferred walk-on," Conroy said. "That means you're on the 105-man roster for the football team, however, you're not one of the 85 who will be getting a scholarship."

Earning a scholarship will require development at the next level, but more importantly, the graduation of other kickers. "The place kicker right now (Brett Swenson) ... is a sophomore, the punter (Aaron Bates) is going to be a sophomore and the kickoff guy (Todd Boleski) will be a senior. Hopefully as we move through the different seasons, I'll be able to pick up a scholarship," he said.

Conroy boots kick-offs, field goals and punts and he will gladly help the Spartans any way he can. "Last season was my first year punting, and I tend to pick that up fairly quickly. I'm trying to refine that now and just keep working on that," he said, noting he had a 40 yard average punting the pigskin.

What is the longest field goal he's kicked in a game?

"Last season, I didn't really have any long field goal attempts. I think I had three 41-yarders, and that was the longest attempt I had," he said. How about in practice? Does he try to test his limits there?

"In practice, I'll put it this way: On a good day with some wind behind me, I've made it from 65 (yards)."

And what about kickoffs? In high school, Conroy kicked off from the 40-yard line, where he says he routinely booted it through the endzone. But what about in college, where he'll be forced to step back 10 yards and kick it from the 30?

"I'm hoping that I'll still be able put kickoffs into the endzone. That's my goal for right now."

Conroy got a taste of college life this past weekend on a visit to East Lansing. He caught a wrestling meet on Friday, joined the hockey festivities at Munn Arena on Saturday and caught the dismantling of the Wolverines on Sunday at the Breslin Center, where he met with his future head coach Mark Dantonio.

"(Dantonio) is a great guy, he really is. You can talk to him easily, say what's on your mind, and he respects ... your opinion," Conroy said. "I think he's heading this program in the right direction. His first year at Michigan State they go to a bowl game, which is pretty fantastic, so I think he's doing some pretty great stuff up there."

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