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Eagle football a family affair for Conners

October 29, 2001|By ERIC GALVAN, Sports Writer

As Southwest High freshman running back Matthew Conner was headed to the field for his game Thursday, he was stopped by a Southwest varsity assistant coach.

"Good luck tonight. Just do your thing and take care of business," said the coach as he shook Conner's hand.

The coach wasn't just any varsity coach, it was Conner's older brother, Joe.

Matthew, 14, and Joe, 26 are two of three Conner brothers involved in the Southwest High football program. The third is 16-year-old junior running back Eddie Conner.

It's not rare to find a sibling tandem playing the same sport in high school, but what is different is having two siblings play a sport that an older brother coaches.

Joe serves as offensive coordinator for the Southwest varsity and coaches Eddie.

While some would think the younger Conners might get special treatment from their older brother, that isn't the case.

"When we're out on the field, I'm their coach first, not their brother. I treat them just like I treat anyone else on the field," said Joe, a 1993 graduate from Central Union High School, where he played running back.

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Said Matthew of the situation: "You know, it feels all right. There's no pressure at all knowing that they're there. I really look up to both of them and I try to be like them. I look at them like role models."

For most of his 13 siblings' lives, Joe has had to step in as the male role model. Their father, Eddie, died 11 years ago, leaving Joe pretty much the man of the house.

He has helped raise his siblings and helped them become good athletes, but even more, helped them become better people.

"From the football side, he really has helped me become a better football player. Whenever I need his advice about something on the field, I know I can go to him and he'll help me out," said Eddie. "And I know that he has helped me become the man that I am."

While Joe has helped mold his brothers, he said that may not have been possible without his own experiences growing up.

"When I was younger I really didn't see the picture clearly," said Joe. "But now that I'm older and know a little more, I'm trying to help them see the picture clearly so they can be successful down the road."

While football is a big subject among the Conner brothers, Joe said he stresses the importance of school and getting good grades first and foremost.

In his whole scheme of things, Joe thinks the three keys to success for his siblings come down to faith, family and football.

Faith and family are almost givens among any family, but the football thing does add a certain unique dimension to the mix.

When they're not on the field, Joe breaks down film with Matthew and Eddie at home, helping his brothers understand the game better. The football bond may be tighter between Joe and Eddie because Joe has coached his younger brother since he was 9 years old. When Eddie was playing Pop Warner football, Joe was his coach and has followed his career since.

While Joe has encouraged his siblings to compete in sports, he said he doesn't force them.

"I really don't try to push it on them. I've seen parents that do that and to me, that's just wrong. So I let them make their own decisions on that. If they want to play a sport that's fine, but if they don't, I'm not going to make them play," said Joe.

Matthew and Eddie have chosen to play sports and have excelled in football as keys to their teams' offenses.

Joe says what he and his siblings do is for one main reason.

"We're just trying to make our mom, Josephine, proud," said Joe. "We love her and make her proud any way we can. And we know that our father would be proud, too."

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