How rookie tight finish Tanner Conner overcame odds to make the Miami Dolphins’ 53-man roster


You can decide any certainly one of numerous explanation why rookie Tanner Conner is essentially the most shocking breakthrough story on this Dolphins 53-man roster.

You can cite the very fact he performs a place, tight finish, the place the Dolphins already appeared set, with 4 veterans.

You can point out the truth that he was one thing of a mission, adjusting to a conversion from school broad receiver to NFL tight finish.

You can observe that he missed the ultimate two weeks of preseason with a knee harm.

You can acknowledge that he didn’t have a single soccer scholarship provide popping out of highschool, not to mention any Power 5 convention curiosity.

But regardless of all of that, the Dolphins additionally knew this: They doubtless wouldn’t be capable of sneak him by waivers and onto their follow squad. And the mix of measurement (6-3), velocity (4.37-second 40-yard sprint time) and a 39.5-inch vertical leap — mixed along with his receiving expertise — have been too intoxicating to surrender on, not after 4 months of growing him.

“Talent wise, we would have lost him [if he had been waived],” Dolphins basic supervisor Chris Grier stated. “Other teams were asking about him. He’s got a future here potentially.”

Was Conner shocked to stay?

“My coaches told me I did enough early in camp and the preseason game and they thought I did a really good job and had belief in me and saw potential maybe I didn’t see. It wasn’t a surprise. I thought I worked really hard for it. But I was grateful they put me on the 53. If I were on the practice squad, I would feel the same way. I’m happy to be here.”

Nobody with the Dolphins knowledgeable him that he made the crew. Instead, “when I saw the whole roster on Twitter, I knew I was in.”

At least 10 groups referred to as him after the draft; about half, together with the Dolphins, needed to maneuver him to tight finish.

Conner picked the Dolphins as a result of he felt comfy with the place swap and bonded with place coach John Embree throughout his pre-draft go to to Miami.

“Miami had taken me on a 30 visit, so they obviously saw something they liked in me. And I felt a genuine relationship there and felt like I trusted who [Embree] was and his track record,” Conner stated. “Some teams hit me up the [third] day of the draft that I never talked to, and that’s kind of weird. You don’t want to sign somewhere where you never talked to them before. I went with what to me was loyalty.

“Coach Embree thought I could play tight end even though I never played it before. I was scared because that’s an adjustment; having to change position at this level is obviously a task. But I believe in his plan. Embree has a great track record.”

And Embree likes what he has seen of Conner: “I loved how physical he was with the football. He was physical with it in college. He runs well. He really made a lot of strides. He picks up things real quickly. He worked on stuff I asked him to work on during the summer. When he came back in the summer, he was light years ahead of where he was. He’s a really good special teams player.”

He was such an obscure broad receiver prospect popping out of highschool in Kent, Washington – the place his crew ran a Wing-T offense and he was requested primarily to dam – that he didn’t also have a web page (which even most fringe FBS prospects have) or a single soccer scholarship provide.

He had affords to run observe at Washington and Washington State.

During a recruiting go to in to Idaho State in early summer time, simply after his senior yr of highschool ended, he requested Idaho State’s observe coach, Hillary Merkley, if he might give a soccer spotlight tape to Rob Phenicie, the crew’s soccer coach.

“Every school I went to, I asked to play football,” he stated. “Every one said no except Idaho State. I gave [Phenicie] a Hudl link [of my high school football highlights]. I said coach, ’I’m on a track visit. I would appreciate if you could take a few minutes to watch this link.’ Two hours later, they offered me a scholarship. They watched and loved what they saw and said, ‘you can really play.’”

Conner stated he and the observe and soccer coaches “made a deal” for him to play each soccer and proceed working observe.

“It was very late in the process” – lower than two months earlier than enrolling in school, he stated. “I didn’t know where I was going to go, if I was even going to play football.”

Conner had 124 receptions for 2211 yards in 26 school video games, together with 34 catches for 685 yards and three TDs in simply six video games final season. He additionally set a Big Sky 60-meter hurdle file at 7.73 and ran the 100 meters in a blazing 10.51 seconds and the 200 meters in 21.5 seconds.

The benefit of taking part in tight finish?

“Mismatches,” he stated. ”As a decent finish, you go towards linebackers and safeties within the field. Also, you don’t get pressed as a lot. You get free releases inside. It’s a unique world down there. You can disguise a whole lot of issues, particularly on this offense and hopefully can catch them off guard with what you’re doing and [the opponent] gained’t see it coming. If you’ll be able to shock them with velocity, you’ve a fairly good mismatch.”

How is his blocking? “I’m not going to say I’m great at it,” he stated. “I’m proud of how far I’ve come. I didn’t think I was ever going to be able to block at all. But my coach has been passionate about coaching me. I’ve made some good strides.”

He has studied tape of tight ends George Kittle, Darren Waller, teammate Mike Gesicki and the retired Tony Gonzalez.

“It’s weird because my whole life I studied receivers and release packages, and now all of a sudden, I’m in line as a tight end,” he stated. “I actually watched Mike Gesicki in college because he was that receiver/tight end hybrid that could really do it all. I’m not a traditional tight end. I’m not 250 pounds. I’m a smaller guy [at 232 pounds]. Watching those tight ends has helped me a lot.”

Barry Jackson has written for the Miami Herald since 1986 and has written the Florida Sports Buzz column since 2002.


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