Connor: "it's an unbelievable fit for me"

Rookie linebacker Dan Connor doesn't seem to be upset about being drafted by a team with plenty of linebacker depth. The Panthers selected Connor in the third round out of Penn State despite having more pressing needs at other positions.

"That is how the draft goes and you make the best of the situation," Connor said. "To be honest coming into this city and this team with the atmosphere and coaching down here, I think it's an unbelievable fit for me. I feel real comfortable. I'm happy and it's one of those things where it will end up working out in the long run."

With Jon Beason at middle linebacker, Thomas Davis at strong-side linebacker and Na'il Diggs and free-agent pickup Landon Johnson competing for the weak-side spot, Connor's most significant contributions will likely come on special teams.

During OTAs he spent time working with the second team behind Beason.

Nonetheless, Connor, who will enter camp wearing a non-traditional No. 44, hopes to be ready when his number is called. And that means getting digesting the playbook so he can be ready to read and react.

"Obviously, the speed of the game is a jump up (from college)," Connor said. "Playing in the Senior Bowl helped me adjust to that because everyone can run there. That's always an adjustment. You don't want to get too caught up in all of the checks and stuff like that because you want to show them you can go out and play. It's a tough task, but something I'm up for."

If history has anything to say about it, Connor should be a success in Carolina.

In addition to becoming the 17th Penn State linebacker in the Joe Paterno era to be selected All-American, Connor was the recipient of the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defensive player and was a finalist for the Butkus Award.

The Crime, Law and Justice major learned from his older brothers and became the third sibling to play in the collegiate ranks. Jim played football at Boston College and Mike played at Lehigh. There are some who believe Connor's speed (4.6 in the 40) will hinder him at the next level, but the Panthers believe his history of production is too hard to ignore. That's why they drafted him in the third round, even though they had other more pressing needs at the time.

Some guys are simply football players, and Connor, the Panthers firmly believe, is one of them.

Even before he stepped on the field at Penn State, Connor earned national attention.

At Strath Haven (Pa.) High School, Connor was a consensus All-American, and the four-year starter was selected the nation's top prep linebacker by Parade. He earned first-team All-American accolades from USA Today, Super Prep and numerous other media outlets. The 2003 Associated Press Big School Player-of-the-Year, Connor was named first-team All-State three times.

The captain and MVP of his team, Connor also won the Maxwell Football Club's prestigious Jim Henry Award as the Philadelphia Area Player-of-the-Year and was the Philadelphia Inquirer Southeastern Pennsylvania Player-of-the-Year as a senior. As a running back, he totaled 4,556 rushing yards and 77 touchdowns during his prep career. Defensively, he made 451 tackles, 18 sacks, 16 interceptions and six fumble recoveries.

Big numbers for sure. Numbers too hard for the Panthers to ignore.

"It's a lot of work and there's a lot of stuff mentally (to learn), but I'm excited to be playing," Connor said. "The playbook is tough, getting all of the defenses down and making the adjustments, things like that. It's two or three times more complicated than college. That's the tough part."

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