Conner overcomes fluke injury to return for MC opener

Maryville College senior Tim Conner scrambles out of the pocket during a recent scrimmage at Honaker Field.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Maryville College senior Tim Conner scrambles out of the pocket during a recent scrimmage at Honaker Field.

All-American tackle Blake Barnes anchors a stout Maryville defensive line.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

All-American tackle Blake Barnes anchors a stout Maryville defensive line.

All-American receiver Wesley Idlette could own all Maryville receiving records by season’s end.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

All-American receiver Wesley Idlette could own all Maryville receiving records by season’s end.

Senior defensive back Bud Christy is one of three Scots who’ll enter 2011 as preseason All-Americans.

Photo by Brandon Shinn

Senior defensive back Bud Christy is one of three Scots who’ll enter 2011 as preseason All-Americans.

Coming off a stellar 2009, Tim Conner looked ready to lead Maryville College to a big year in his final season in 2011. It proved to be a year that would never begin.

In 2009, the 6-foot-2 Tavares, Fla., native threw for 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns. Two practices into fall camp 2010, what was to be Conner’s senior campaign came to an abrupt close, the Scots quarterback done for the year with a fluke shoulder injury.

“It was the second day of full pads, and it was a rollout pass for a 25-yard vertical,” Conner said. “I just felt a pop. It wasn’t like most pain that I’ve ever felt, but I tried to keep practicing. I knew something was wrong.”

The Scots open the 2011 season when they host Huntingdon College on Saturday at Honaker Field.

Kickoff is 1:30 p.m.

For Conner, Saturday can’t get here fast enough.

It wasn’t until two days after Conner felt the pop he learned through an MRI he had torn the posterior ligament in his shoulder. Ahead lay eight months rehabilitation, providing Conner wanted to petition the NCAA for a medical redshirt to play that one last season.

“It was like a three to nine tear, which the doctor said is a bad one,” Conner said. “I was in a brace at a 90 degree angle for four weeks. I couldn’t throw, and I couldn’t start throwing a tennis ball until four or five months after it. I was inactive for a while.”

That inactivity didn’t last long. Conner petitioned and got that medical redshirt to return to the gridiron for Maryville. Scots coach Tony Ierulli said Conner made it evident right away that he wanted to come back.

“He made it clear right after the injury that he wanted to come back,” Ierulli said. “He’s spent the last eight and a half months rehabbing and getting that shoulder ready. It’s a good testament to him.”

Conner said the eight months after the injury was not an easy time. Enduring the brace, opening a bottle of water with his left hand or teeth, normal day activities became a challenge for the All-USA South Athletic Conference quarterback.

“It was definitely the toughest thing I’ve ever done,” Conner said. “There’s nothing like a shoulder injury, especially being in that brace. My shoulder was sore, and it still gets sore. It has cracks and there’s arthritis.”

Many believe Conner’s return for the 2011 season means good things for the Scots. Maryville All-American receiver Wesley Idlette said he’s receiving harder and faster throws from his quarterback.

“Tim’s had a good fall camp,” Idlette said. “There have been some days that we’ve had to cut back a little bit on his reps because Tim is one of those guys that pushes himself so hard that he throws a little bit too much in the course of getting his shoulder totally ready for the season.”

Seeing Conner push that hard is a relief, Ierulli said. The Scots have had to start with a new traffic director each of the past four seasons. Injuries to Justin Price, Lucas Wall, Derek Hunt and Conner have forced Maryville to start with a new quarterback at the helm each time.

“The instability at the quarterback position the last four years has really hindered the progress of our offense,” Ierulli said. “The first four or five games of the season, we struggled offensively because our quarterbacks were trying to learn the offense. They seemed to play a lot better the last part of the season.”

Conner said he’s just glad to be back in the mix of things for the Scots.

“I figured everything happened for a reason, so I just had to trust God,” Conner said. “That’s what I did. I put my trust in Him and now I’m here for my fifth year. I’m getting to play again, so I’m thankful for the opportunity.”

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