Thrown Into the Fire
Jeffrey "Maz" Mazurczak has been around football for much of his life, and through his 25 years of coaching, has seen a lot of great players and sent many of them to the college ranks. So when coach talks about his junior to be defensive lineman Conor Sheehy in the manner that he does, it means something.
The 6'4, 240-lb Sheehy had a fantastic summer camp run, earning offers from Wisconsin and Michigan in the process. That type of attention could easily go straight to a teenager's head, but not this one.
"He has handled it about as best I've seen in my experience," Coach Maz said. "He is such a grounded kid. He's a smart kid, a great student, a great guy to have in the building. He is a terrific kid, so when the attention came to him, he handled it in stride. He has a lot of class, and is mature beyond his years."
He needed that maturity last year, when he was called up to varsity, thrown into the starting lineup and expected to replace a three year starter, Mark Scarpinato, who signed with Michigan State.
"We started him, and we had a need there. Mark was quite the role model to live up to. When we put [Conor] in the starting lineup last year, he played beyond his years. He's mature, a great kid in the locker room and classroom, and because of that, he handled playing as a sophomore very well. Sometimes sophomores, it's all they can do to handle the position they're in. He was making kids better around him a sophomore. That's the kind of presence he has. Because of that, I named him a captain [for this year]. In 105 years of playing football, we haven't named a lot of junior captains. There have been some over the years, but we don't name a lot of them. In this case, it was an obvious choice."
Breaking Down Sheehy
College coaches at Michigan State, Michigan, and Wisconsin, the places Sheehy camped this summer, got to see first hand what Coach Maz saw a year ago, as the qualities that make him a top end college prospect also made him a great player for Maz.
"He's got a terrific work ethic. That's what got him to where he is. He'll live in the weight room. He loves to continue to improve. We saw that as a young freshman. We heard from our freshman staff that he was a hard worker. He was probably 225-230 then, and throughout his sophomore year, he continued to just get bigger. In the off-season, after that year on the field for us, he was involved in power lifting, which was huge."
Sheehy works hard off the field, but he also works hard on it, and beyond his size and strength, that effort is a large part of what makes him special.
"What also makes him successful is, he has a heck of a motor. There's an urgency in the way he plays. He's sudden. He's determined when he's on the field. He's hard to block. You may block him, but he'll never stay blocked."
That sounds a lot like Scarpinato, who was also a battler, a scrapper, and a player who attracted scholarship offers.
"There are similarities and there are some differences. Mark was put into a position very similar to Conor in that, we graduated a defensive lineman, a weakside end where we played both Mark and Conor. We have a rich tradition, and we don't start a whole ton of sophomores either. We graduate anywhere from 30-40 seniors every year, so we usually have good depth and experience. Both those guys got an opportunity and they responded very well. Mark's maturity level part of that, and their work ethic is similar. You're not going to find two guys we are going out work you like those two."
The College Decision
Wisconsin offered first, and Michigan followed. Those are the two offers Sheehy has, and more are likely on the way. They are both interesting offers. Wisconsin, being the in-state school, Michigan being a school he camped at and returned to for a visit just a month later.
Coach Maz is familiar with both. He has several players at Wisconsin, and has known Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison for some years.
"I have a long time relationship with Coach Mattison. I've knonw him when he's recruited the school. He took a couple kids when he coached at Michigan previously and he took one or two of our kids to Notre Dame, and he saw Conor's talent right out of the gate when he was at the camp. He told me there was a [highly recruited] kid up here from Florida at that camp and he thought Conor was as good or better, so he really popped off the page."
Mattison has roots in Wisconsin, so he knows what he would be getting in a kid from this program.
"He knows talent. He's been at Notre Dame, been with Urban Meyer, most recently with Brady Hoke, and he came from the NFL, coaching with the Baltimore Ravens. He started out coaching in Wisconsin. Now, talk about a guy that knows talent. He's seen them all come and go, and he said, 'Maz, this kid's amazing. He's a typical Marquette kid.' He knows he's coming from a good program and a program that is going to hold him to a high, accountable standard."
The Wisconsin offer appears as though it is is going to be tough to beat though, as it's in-state, and there are family ties to the school.
"The first offer's the one to remember quite a bit. It's in-state school, and it's a program he's grown up with. His parents and grandfather are a strong Milwaukee family. His dad having gone to Wisconsin, there's a real fondness there for the university. For most kids grow up playing football around these parts, when the in-state school offers, it's an exciting event."
While Sheehy is an even keel, mature young man, when that first offer came, and came from the Badgers, Maz says it was hard to take the smile off his face.
"He's definitely excited about it. He impressed them at camp. It's a situation where colleges now, they want to see the kid on campus, doing their drills, and so they can put their watch on them. That's where you're going to impress and earn an offer. It was surprising to us, because the Badgers have a couple of our kids, the Trotter brothers, and neither were early offers, so for Conor to get the early offer as he did, it's exciting and certainly not expected. I think part of that had to do too with their needs and how many guys and who's graduating and that type of thing, but they're right up at top."
That doesn't mean Sheehy is ready to make any decisions though. He does have a great support system around him though, with his parents, and a coach who has been through many recruiting cycles.
"He hasn't said when. He hasn't laid out a timetable as to when he's going to make decision. I counsel my guys, and I coached under Dick Basham, who retired the winningest coach in Wisconsin football history, coached 38 years, and I played with him and coached with him. He taught me that it's really the young man's decision. It's the parents, and it's the young man who's going to do the four or five years at that college, so it has to be a good fit football wise, academic wise, socially, campus wise. It's a period of their life that's very important in their development. They do all want to go to the NFL, but there's a reason NFL stands for "not for long." Not everybody's going to make it there."
Luckily, Sheehy already has two pretty good schools to choose from.
"Now, he has some great options. Wisconsin is terrific. Michigan is terrific. Both have great sports programs, academics, football programs, great traditions. Will other schools jump in? Sure. Northwestern wants to see him play. He has opened up USC's eyes. It takes a good amount of reason for them to come to Midwest, when cross over a ton of phenomenal talent from there to here, so will they end up offering? Who knows."
What we do know, is that, no matter what comes his way, or whatever difficulties this season and the recruiting process will present, Conor Sheey will handle it with the same maturity and work ethic that has gotten him to this point.