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2021 NFL Draft Prospect Interview: Tanner Conner, WR, Idaho State

Tanner Connor Idaho State
Tanner Conner is an amazing athlete at Idaho State University on the football field and as a track star. With his big physical frame, he projects very well in the pro game. He recently sat down with Draft Diamonds writer Jimmy Williams.
  • Name: Tanner Conner
  • Height: 6’3”
  • Weight: 225 lbs
  • Position: WR
  • College: Idaho State University
  • Twitter: @Tanner_Conner86

Tell us about your university/college. Did you participate in any other activities or campus organizations other than football?

  • I go to Idaho State University in South Eastern Idaho which is about 12 hours away from my home in Kent, Washington. Along with football, I have also competed on the track and field team for ISU for the past 4 years. I have earned 3 Big Sky championship titles in both the 60m hurdles and 100m hurdles events. I currently hold the Big Sky 60m hurdle record at 7.73. My best mark in the 100m was 10.51 and my best mark in the 200m was 21.5.

How did you end up at Idaho State?

  • I initially had zero offers for football coming out of high school. However, I did have few offers to compete in track and field including ISU. When I came on my official visit to Pocatello, I asked Hillary Merkley, the director of track and field, if I could drop my football highlight tape to the coaches. Two hours after meeting with the football coaches, they called me back into their office to offer me a scholarship and I agreed to it under the condition that I could still run for the track and field team. This is what led me to be the dual-sport athlete I have been for the last 4 years. 

What do your teammates say is your best quality?

  • Integrity, by the definition of doing the right thing when no one is looking. I tend to be a very quiet guy and just kind of put my head down and get to work. A good example would be how I trained during quarantine. When everyone got sent home, my brothers and I helped my dad build a gym in our garage so we could continue doing our olympic movements along with accessory lifts. I also went out and found a quarterback from my high school to throw with 4 days a week while I was home. I am just so used to training that it was natural for me to find time to lift 3 times a week and run routes 4 times a week during all the craziness. Training is what really structures my life, and that’s why I believe I stick to it even when the circumstances are not ideal. 

What kind of role do you see yourself in on the team? What scheme and/or position suits your skill set?

  • Air raid offense. An offense that likes to utilize big, fast, and physical receivers downfield but also uses them to seal cornerbacks and safeties in the running game. The RPO system at ISU was a perfect match for me. 

Who is the best player you have ever played against in college?

  • The most challenging DB I ever had to face was my teammate Caleb Brown. Caleb and I have gone way back and have been competing against each other in both football and track and field from middle school on. At practice, he was the most challenging because he could get in and out of his breaks very quickly and had zero fear when defending any receiver. His mindset I believe set him apart as he truly believed he could make every play from a defensive standpoint. He may have had an advantage of knowing the type of athlete I was since we have competed against each other for so long but regardless was a great football player with good quickness and top speed. 

Which one of your teammates impresses you the most?

  • Isaiah Walter, better known as Zeek to us, impresses me every time he steps on the field. He has the best hands-on our team and makes catching look so effortless and automatic. His route running is extremely unique and incorporates extreme lateral quickness combined with multiple deceptive moves. He is also extremely strong in the weight room putting up crazy numbers for his weight. He is super accountable and just does what is asked of him without complaining. I can’t wait to see what he does on the field this year. 

Check out NFL Draft Diamonds 2021 Small School Rankings

Describe a time in your life when you were able to overcome a struggle.

  • During my senior year of high school, national signing day had come and gone for any high school athletes pursuing football. I did not sign on signing day nor did I have a single offer after my senior season concluded. My dreams of both competing in football and track and field seemed very distant so I decided to solely focus on track for my final season. I ended up running really well and earned a few D1 offers to race at the next level. However, my dad had told me that I shouldn’t give up on football just yet. Every school I visited for track and field, I also proposed the idea of playing football as well. Out of the five visits I attended only Hillary Merkley, the head track and field coach at ISU, had given my dream the time of day. She took me to the football offices, and I gave the coaches my hudl link to watch just and see if I had a chance at playing at this level. Two hours later, Hillary received a call from Coach Phen and brought me back to the offices where they offered me on the spot. This was in June after my senior year, so receiving any type of scholarship was and is extremely rare. I ended up signing shortly after, contingent on the condition that I could both play football and run track and field. Four years later I have excelled in both sports solely due to the opportunity that ISU had given me and have been grateful ever since. 

What is something that you are most proud of? What would you say is your biggest achievement?

  • I am most proud of accomplishing my dream of becoming a collegiate dual-sport athlete despite how impractical it would be to maintain for 4 years. It is extremely difficult to stay an in-season athlete from the start of fall camp for football till the end of June for track. Splitting time between spring football and the outdoor track was something that required perfect time management between both practices and football meetings along with classes. Both of my coaches were very helpful in developing a schedule friendly to both sports without overwhelming my body too much. Not many athletes can do it nowadays with the great demand coming from just one sport alone at the collegiate level, so to be able to give equal attention to both sports is an achievement I am very proud of. 

Describe one of the most memorable plays of your collegiate career. 

  • So far, my most memorable play would be the touchdown against Portland State where I caught a 3 step slant and evaded 3 defenders for a 66-yard touchdown. I felt that one play best showcased my overall ability as a receiver in terms of quickness, strength, and top speed. 

If you didn’t play football, what other sport would you play?

  • My favorite sport to play is basketball. I was not necessarily skilled enough to play at a higher level but if I was, that would be my choice. I love going to open gym to play pick up games because it is a great form of cardio and is always fun to impress people with some dunks. 

What was your major/minor? Other than football, what would be your dream job?

  • I have a bachelor’s in Criminology with a minor in psychology. My dream job is some type of detective or federal type of work investigating homicides or drug cases. 

What have you been working on in the off-season?

  • I always work on speed and strength but specifically for this upcoming season is my catching and route-running ability. I want to be able to run very efficient routes and catch any ball that comes into my radius. 

Do you have a favorite athlete or professional team? Is there a player that you model your game after?

  • I’ve always been a Seahawks fan and still am today. There are a bunch of players I watch to enhance my own game but Doug Baldwin is someone I watch often and try to model my releases and route stemming from. I also watch bigger receivers like Julio Jones and AJ Green because they have similar body types to me. 

What do you do in your spare time? Do you have any hobbies? Do you have any secret talents?

  • I play a lot of video games in my spare time. I have been big into watching Naruto as well. I can also do some intermediate level yo-yo tricks that I learned over quarantine. 

Why do you play football?

  • I love the game. I feel I have a very high potential for the sport and am built for it. The culture itself creates both good work and life habits and the competition is constant which fulfills my competitive spirit. Being able to compete for every snap is a challenge in itself which I enjoy. 

Who or what motivates you the most?

  • My faith in God has been my primary motivator from the start, because I know I can do all things through him. Without my faith, I know my life would look very different right now and I would not have had nearly as many opportunities that I’ve been blessed with to compete at this level. My mom is someone that wholeheartedly believes that I can be the best at anything I do, and my dad has always reminded me of my accomplishments that have taken me this far when I do lose confidence in my abilities. My girlfriend Kelsey always reminds me that I am always my own person rooted in Christ first, and a football player second which is extremely important when bringing life into perspective. 
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