Versatile Michigan commit Gareon Conley earns UA All-America jersey
It's not that he wants his do-it-all senior to be near the point of exhaustion, but Conley is that important to the Tigers in a football town that once housed Paul Brown and Earle Bruce as its coaches.
Where Conley really makes his mark, however, is on defense, where the cornerback has a pick-six, a fumble recovery and eight pass breakups this season. The numbers are low because virtually no one throws his way for fear of the pigskin going the other direction. So it's no surprise he was honored at his school on Thursday with a jersey as part of the American Family Insurance Selection Tour for the Under Armour All-America Game.
"We need him on the field," Hall said. "We don't ever want Gareon off the field, especially in our big games.
"He's one of the more explosive players that I've ever been around. What's interesting about him is I think he might be faster on the football field than he is in track. His instincts take over. He's up there as one of the best I've coached. Him and [current Ohio State wide receiver] Devin Smith are my top two."
What makes Conley so good is the fact he's still being molded into a playmaker. Even he doesn't know how good he can be.
The ESPN 150 senior -- he's ranked No. 61 -- didn't really start taking the game seriously until his sophomore year. In fact, Conley didn't play high school ball until then.
"I watched him on the basketball court as a freshman and knew right away this kid could be special," Hall said. "He slowly progressed as sophomore and then midway through, he started picking it up.
"He's super raw, and I don't say that in a negative way. You're not close to seeing this kid's top end and that's what scary."
What's even more frightening is the fact Conley finally considers football to be his No. 1 sport after living on the court and the track. He still enjoys those sports, but now he sees a pigskin and starts smiling.
"I love the game a lot," he said. "I actually grew into the sport. I never leave the field. That's what I like the most. I want to be out there all the time. As long as I can get on the field, I'll play both offense and defense."
Conley is also starting to grow into his role as a superstar as well. He knows the accolades will come when you're the leader at a school that is football crazy. He also knows when Under Armour notices you, you might be something a little more.
But that doesn't mean he's not humble.
"This means a lot," Conley said. "It's hard work paying off. All that offseason working, the lifting, the strength and conditioning, Coach Hall and the other assistants put us through is proving itself.
"Players like A.J. Green and Julio Jones who have played in this, those are the greats. I'm excited for the opportunity and ready to go out and play. It's going to be a fun and fulfilling experience."
As for where Conley fits at the next level, Hall sees it quite clearly.
"I think he's great at both, but I think he's a big-time corner," Hall said. "His height and the way he can press, that's what Michigan and the other schools like. He can match up, and he's physical. I really see him there at the next level and the level after that."
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