Connor Center spent his high school career playing baseball at Christian Brother's Academy in Albany (NY). Yet as his career progressed and he started being recruited to play college baseball, his love for the game dissipated. With the help of a friend, he found his love for sports again. This time, it was in a sport in which he had no formal experience.
"That was a little bit blown out of proportion," Center claimed. "I was a pretty good pitcher, but I wasn't MLB good. There's quite a few reasons why I made the switch. Some deeper than others. The main reason was I got drawn away from baseball. I couldn't tell you how. My heart just wasn't in it. I just felt like I needed to use my talents elsewhere. So I started to get away from baseball. I met up with a best friend of mine, Kyle Buss, he's at Milford Academy. He's a great football player. He kind of introduced me to a whole group of kids that worked out at a local facility. They were doing 7-on-7, they were working out everyday, running their 40s. I got in there and I loved it. I started working out and the deeper I got going with it, the more I loved it.
"I realized I was really good at it and I wanted to try to do something with it. A lady that specializes in recruiting and a conditioning coach, she got on board with me. She pushed me into the recruiting process. As I pushed these videos out, I started getting schools interested in me. That's when the offers started coming and stuff. Before I made the switch over to football, I always loved to lift weights to get stronger and better. My love for lifting and working out, brought me into football too. Working out with Kyle and his brother and stuff. Pitchers don't always go into the weight room all the time. So football was a perfect fit for me."
Making such a major change was a challenge because Center did not have high school football footage to show to prospective coaches. However, he was able to create highlight videos from some of his 7-on-7 workouts. That video impressed the Syracuse coaches.
"I had a video of me just catching passes and the 7-on-7," Center explained. "I sent that one out to a lot of the schools that I was interested in. Syracuse was one of the first to get back to me. I think it was Coach (Pat) Perles, the o-line coach. He was the one that first got in contact with me over email. He said, "we really like your video and like the way you move." They loved the video and wanted to learn more about me. They thought I'd really like what Syracuse had to offer and wanted me to come up for a visit. That was the first way they reached out.
"Then I got the email from Coach (George) McDonald. He said they wanted to come to me to watch me work out since I never played football in high school. So they wanted to see how I would block and how aggressive I was. They ended up coming down here, Coach Perles and McDonald. They didn't intervene at all, they just watched me go through the o-line workout. I got the offer a little while after that."
Center says his family grew up Syracuse fans. Friends and family are pushing him towards the Orange.
"I was ecstatic," Center admitted. "Because growing up, obviously I was in New York (Albany) so Syracuse was close to home. It was a dream to have a school like Syracuse offer me. It still really hasn't hit me. It's weird. I'm not one of those kids who played football in high school and has been recruited for three years. It came on real fast.
"My grandparents are huge ‘Cuse fans. They go to all the home games and have season tickets. They live right by Oneida Lake. That was a lot of emotion all at once. I was like, ‘wow. This actually just happened.'"
Syracuse isn't the only school that has noticed the potential in the 6-foot-8 talent. Center has been in contact with several schools across the country.
"Colorado, I first talked to the head coach (Mike MacIntyre) last week," Center recalled. "It was Tuesday of last week. He told me when we first talked on the phone, ‘hey man if you do what we think you can do, you can come visit, meet the coaches, and you'll get offered.' I don't have an offer from them yet, but I'm pretty confident when I go visit I'll be coming home with an offer.
"Other than them, I've had a lot of conversations with a lot of schools. The problem is, it's so late in the recruiting process and I'm such a unique situation, there aren't a lot of scholarships left. It's almost like whatever ones I choose to pursue, if I really like the coach and I like the school, I can get out there and take a visit and get an offer. It's not realistic to for me to rack up twenty offers when these schools only have one scholarship. Most of them don't have any available so I'd have to wait for someone to become academically ineligible. It's a tough situation.
"I've talked to Cincinnati who's interested in me," Center continued. "Some local schools like Stony Brook. I've talked to Miami and Utah. Missouri and Nevada wanted me to come out. Nevada, I'd have to register and pay to go out there. So I wasn't really interested in that. Michigan State is interested in me. They are trying to get me to take a visit out there. I talk to the coach on Monday. Louisville has shown interest."
Center plans on taking a visit to Syracuse the weekend of June 8th. That visit will show him whether the Orange are the right fit.
"I'm familiar with Syracuse," Center offered. "I've been to games. I have an idea. I know what the Carrier Dome looks like since I've been to games. I haven't really gotten the down low on the football facilities and things like that. I think once I see that, that will really open my eyes. Between seeing in person how nice the school, which I think I would like at any school. But the main thing for me is sitting down with the coaches and I feel comfortable with them.
"I know the next four or five years of my life, depending on if I redshirt or not, are going to be good. I'm going to be wanted and I'm going to feel comfortable with that program. If I sit down with coaches and I know I can do good things there. Most importantly, because I'm so raw not having played football in high school, that they're willing to work with me and put in that little bit of extra time with me so I can become that player that they think I can become."
Center added that Syracuse envisions him starting out as a tight end, and transitioning to an offensive tackle as he bulks up. He also has said the Syracuse coaches believe he can be a first round draft pick as a tackle.