To The Whistle - And Beyond

Conner Arlia has that extra drive, the kind of motor that thrills coaches – and can irritate teammates to no end.

It was on display throughout high school, when the academic junior was a two-time first-team All-State selection and and MVP of both the state title game and the North-South All-Star game at Weirton-Madonna High. And it has continued at West Virginia, where Arlia saw limited special teams action and was the Scout Team Champion for the Pitt game as a freshman in 2011, then caught seven passes for 43 yards as a receiver last fall. But that extra gear – the excess work ethic and competitive streak that's likely to be on display in game situations this autumn – has thus far been the bane of opposing Mountaineer players in practice.

"(Teammates) say stuff in the locker room about it, especially some of those defensive backs that I'm blocking after the whistle," Arlia said, conjuring Rudy-like images. "They don't like too much. But we all get along so well, me and the guys on the team. It's been great."

No time greater than the Gold-Blue game, before which Arlia, along with linebacker Isaiah Bruce and defensive end Will Clarke, was named an Iron Mountaineer Award winner as an outstanding performer in the WVU strength and conditioning program. Arlia also won the Blue and Gold News' Tom Nickolich Memorial Award as the walk-on team member who distinguished himself through attitude and work ethic, named in honor of the former WVU player (1979-82) who died of cancer in 1983. Arlia was also awarded a full scholarship for the upcoming season.

"It was amazing, it really was," said Arlia, a West Virginia native. "I was excited to get the two awards, then I had to go play a game. It's a blessing. A scholarship, I'm excited about that, but my parents are probably more excited. … We knew about the Iron Mountaineer. That's an award that I really take pride in. I pride myself in working hard, and that's what this team is all about is working hard this year. I was honored and blessed to receive that award."

Arlia said he takes great pride in playing for the program that most represents the entire Mountain State, and that being an in-state player brings added honors for the 5-9, 181-pounder.

"Being a West Virginia guy, I'm so honored and I feel I've been blessed to grow up in this state," said Arlia. "We have so much state pride and I love this state. I definitely want to do my best every time I'm out there to succeed for this state. I think growing up, my family, my mom, my dad my grandfather preached that. Go hard every day. I think that's where so much of it comes from. I'm working to improve my routes, improve quickness. That's something you have to work on, especially as a wide receiver. The quicker I am, the better I'm going to be out there. This spring, we ran a screen play and I missed a block twice. Need to work on that. I can improve every day. There are always things to improve on."

Arlia, an exercise physiology major, has also earned Garrett Ford Athletic Academic Honor Roll and Academic All-Big 12 honors. Heading into the summer, Arlia is the starter at the ‘Y' slot wideout position ahead of Jordan Thompson. Arlia caught three passes for 26 yards in the Gold-Blue spring game.

"He's a tremendous kid," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He's a West Virginia kid and comes from a great family. He's as good as they come from an academic standpoint. It doesn't get any better than his work ethic. He's a guy that you want on your team. He's not the most talented kid that we have, but he works his tail off. He has earned his right to be on this team."


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