By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.— West Salem’s Adrian McConnell has only been back in the game of football for about two years.
For about a five-year stretch, between the fifth-grade until his return to the sport his sophomore year he stepped away from the blood and pads of the gridiron for the bat and ball of baseball. The challenges were there no doubt, having to adjust to the demands of the High School game at a program like the Titans where the expectations are deep playoff runs on a yearly basis.
But the six-foot-three-inch, 250-pound defensive lineman has adjusted. Hitting his stride the final two games of his Junior season in 2019.
“I was a baseball player i always loved football but I just didn’t want to play it until I realized I really wasn’t the best at baseball do I decided to play football again and then I fell in love with it,” McConnell said. “It was kind of hard because that break i took somewhat affected me with the x’s and o’s of the sport so I was having trouble getting playing time on varsity because of how I was with plays but at the end of the year junior season I got them down 100% and my last 2 games of the year were my best.”
With his Senior Year postponed until March, and limited opportunities for lineman like him to compete compare to his skill position counterparts. So it’s mainly a mental game in the meantime while putting in work on his own.
Lining up cones to do lateral drills, working on his get-offs. Doing the diamond drills, hoop drills while adding in some work in the shuttle run and the 40-yard dash.
“My coaches have just been telling us make sure to stay focused, have goals and don’t get side tracked. Get up with everything going on just better yourself,” McConnell. “With all this adversity I’m just trying to make the best decisions I can to make myself a better football player and person. Just focusing on the things that make me mad and make me want to improve to be the best I can and doing the things I can control and not get caught up with everything.
“I’ve mentally gone through a lot of challenges like trying to motivate myself and make sure I’m training every day. I’m just itching to get any sort of action on a football field whether its 1 on 1’s or a full-fledged football game. I’m waiting patiently and quietly for my opportunity to play again.”
On October 17, McConnell took part in his first-ever showcase in Springfield. The National Preps Collegiate Showcase.
Nerves was there no doubt about it. It was the first action he’s seen since West Salem’s season ended November 15, 2019 against Lake Oswego. But McConnell embraced it. Seeing what went right and what he can improve on going back into training.
“I think I have a good get off and good acceleration but it good be better and the same with my overall speed,” McConnell said. “I want to be faster and my lateral footwork I learned needs to be improved. So I’ve been going anywhere that has a grass surface or somewhere where I can run and I have been practicing these drills along with just getting stronger and lifting weights.
“I had high hopes for myself and i thought i did good especially since like 4 of the drills we did I’ve never done before so I think I did pretty good but I also learned what I have to improve on. It was very important to get the tape from that showcase , so far its helped me with recruiting to show scouts and coaches what I can do and my potential as a football player.”
But through it all, as we get into the New Year, there was some fun involved with these crazy times.
For about a four-week stretch, some local programs around the area joined around for some Lineman fun. Lineman 7-on-7 to be exact. Giving the big men up front an opportunity to run some routes, catch some passes and maybe score a touchdown or two in the process. Just having and letting loose.
Oh they were a blast it felt good to get back into some competing for the first time in a while and we took it seriously. It was all done at a park in Keizer and we did it like 4 weeks in a row,” McConnell said. “South Salem and Sprague were there and we only lost once against Sprague but we played a total of like 14 games but it was so much fun I hope we can do it again
“It was fun because we didn’t really each other for a while and it just felt good to have some fun for once. We got on each other to be good and not be lazy just because it was a lineman 7v7 we didn’t really care that it was for fun we wanted to win