Floyd Connell always dreamed of playing big-time college football.
As a senior, the Copperas Cove native had offers from many schools to play at the next level. He starred for the Bulldawgs on both sides of the ball; tallying 40 receptions for 445 yards and 18 tackles along with six pass deflections his senior season. Of the programs that came calling was UMHB, who had recently won its second national title in program history. But it was the division one programs that caught his attention. Ultimately, after evaluating his four D1 offers, he signed with the University of Louisiana-Monroe, a solid program in the Sun Belt Conference.
“Going D1 was my dream,” said Connell. “It’s every kid’s dream to get a bunch of offers, sign with a school, pick from hats. I had that opportunity, but life doesn’t always go the way you want it to.”
As a freshman at ULM, Connell saw the field consistently, playing in nine games for the Warhawks, finishing the season with six solo tackles. The first game of his college career was at Kyle Field, in a non-conference dual with the Texas A&M Aggies. It was there that he picked up the first two tackles of his collegiate career. Memories were made that fall for Connell. On the field that is. Off the field, he experienced several ups and downs. He fell behind in his classes, away from home for the first time, and on top of that, got his name in the papers not for his performances in helping ULM to a 6-6 record, but for getting involved in a nasty altercation with a teammate.
“When this stuff happened to me at Louisiana-Monroe, God took me in that direction [toward UMHB],” said Connell. “It would strengthen my faith, and I liked the coach. As soon as I came back from ULM [Coach Fredenburg] was one of the first people to reach out and try to help me get on the right path. They were like the only ones who actually believed in me after everything.”
What UMHB has done for Connell is something that they have done for so many others. The program Fredenburg has built up embodies Phillipians 2:4, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Time and time again, they have been there, living out the foundation of faith of this program, caring about these young men, some of whom have ventured down the wrong path. Fredenburg cares about football, but cares more about the people who his players become.
That was the difference for Connell when it came to choosing his next destination. He briefly played Navarro Junior College in Corsicana, Texas, but it did not work out the way he thought it would.
He remembers weighing his options after that brief stint at the JUCO level. Then he thought of UMHB. Not only had Fredenburg reached out, but his father also frequently worked in the Belton area. His father’s boss was very involved with UMHB, and exposed him to the culture of the Cru.
“I was talking to schools all over, schools in California, then UMHB texted me on Twitter, and I was like ‘This is from God, right here’,” said Connell. “It was 30 minutes from where I was from, it was a no-brainer for me. They are genuine people up there [at UMHB]. They care about the athletes, the faculty, the staff. They want everyone to win. That’s what bought me, right there.”
With that, he made the official decision to return to the Lone Star state, one of the many D1-caliber players to join the Cru this year. Better yet, he has four years of eligibility remaining, and has already been attending the team’s practices, getting a chance to see his future teammates in action. He will officially join the team in the spring, and figures to be an immediate starter in defensive coordinator Larry Harmon’s secondary.
“The goal for me is to get back into the weight room to where I’m better than I was when I was at ULM,” said Connell. “Getting to know the coaches, the players and trying to be a part of the UMHB family. I’m trying to go to the NFL and everything and I feel like they can really help me take that next step.”
Connell certainly has the talent, and the drive to reach that next level, as previous Crusders such as Blake Johnson and Jerrell Freeman have. He always dreamed of playing big-time college football, and he is getting that opportunity. UMHB is one of those rare division three programs with a division one atmosphere.
“To me, UMHB is the best division three school in the country,” said Connell. “What other school to bounce back to than one of the greatest?”