We Walk #2: OL Conor McFadden [#61]
Bootleg presents Episode #2 in our "We
Walk" series profiling Stanford's high-caliber 2010 walk-ons,
focusing our attention this time on true freshman offensive
lineman and, at least for now, center Conor McFadden
(#61), an AP Second Team All-State lineman from St. Thomas
Academy in West St. Paul, Minnesota.
Conor McFadden had a big decision to
As one of the top-rated prospects
for several Ivy League schools, McFadden would have had a good chance to play
early and often at a solid, but lower-profile football program, like Princeton.
Alternatively, the St. Thomas
Academy graduate had the option of entering the Stanford Football program as a
walk-on and working his way up a steep depth chart.
Ultimately, when it came time to
make a college choice, McFadden picked the more challenging option. Why? We'll
let the 6-3, 265-pound offensive lineman explain.
“I'm a person that
has always believed that there are two ways to go through life,” McFadden
said. “There is the easy way and then there's the hard way. For me, the right
way is the hard way. I really look forward to pushing myself in all aspects of
So far, the Minnesota native is
doing just that.
“Training camp is very intense,
but I feel myself getting better every day and that's such a cool feeling,” he
said. “It pushes me farther than I've ever been pushed before. You never know
your limits until you've been pushed and I think that's been a really great
experience for me at this young age.”
After working at guard for the
first few days of training camp, McFadden was moved to center by the coaches.
Although the center position encompasses a great deal of responsibility,
McFadden was thrilled to make the switch.
“I really like it,” he said.
“It's a lot of work, took a lot of studying, and I made a lot of mistakes the
first few days because you have to make all the line calls, you have to put
everyone in the right position. But I really like being in the middle of all
that action and I feel comfortable.”
Working with NFL alumnus Steve
Wisniewski and Stanford offensive line coaches Greg Roman and Tim Drevno has
helped to ease McFadden's transition.
“You'd be hard-pressed to find
better offensive line coaches anywhere,” McFadden said. “These guys truly know what it takes.
They all expect a ton, but they'll teach you how to do it and then your job is
to go out there and be physical and do what they are saying. Go out there and
hit somebody in the mouth, because that's what we do here. We play tough, clean
But when McFadden first sized up
his college future, he was more focused on playing for an Ivy League school than
a BCS conference program.
“I was already pretty much set on
the Ivy leagues,” McFadden said. “I didn't really care about playing Division
McFadden's father, Michael, had
“My dad decided to make a call
[to Stanford] just to make sure they got my tape,” McFadden said. “He's always
thought I should keep my options open. He called and it turned
out [the coaches] had never seen it, even though I had sent it in. They watched
it and were like ‘Oh, wow, he can play here!’”
Although Stanford had filled its
quota for scholarship linemen in the 2010 class, the Cardinal offered McFadden
an opportunity to walk on and potentially earn a scholarship.
But McFadden wasn't instantly
sold on Stanford. He was concerned about what life would be like entering a BCS
program as a walk- on.
“I was still hesitant,” McFadden
said. “Being a walk-on is saying you have a tougher road that you're going
Nevertheless, McFadden agreed to
take an official visit to The Farm to be sure his fears were justified. As it
turned out, numerous other aspects of the Stanford experience overwhelmed any
anxieties he might have harbored.
“I came out here on the visit and
I fell in love with the school.” McFadden said. “Really it was the interaction
between the Stanford athletes and the Stanford regular students which was
unbelievable to me because when I went on my Ivy League visits, the one thing
that bugged me was that it seemed like there was a division of the regular
students from the athletes. Here, it's just so integrated, you look around and
they truly believe in great athletics and great academics. They're so open and
Set on Stanford, McFadden was
thrown a late curveball when Notre Dame tried to get in the mix for his
And although he respected
Stanford growing up, (McFadden thought Stanford was “a magical place on the West
Coast”) McFadden was a Fighting Irish fan as a child.
“My grandfather's family is an
Notre Dame family and I grew up watching Notre Dame,” McFadden said.
So when the Irish came calling,
McFadden had to re-evaluate his decision.
“I actually had an opportunity
probably to walk on at Notre Dame and that was something late in the process
with Stanford,” McFadden said.
“I looked at myself in the eye, and the
type of football they play here and the environment they have here... I made an
honest decision that I wanted to go to Stanford. That was a huge shift for
Watching Stanford's smash-mouth
offensive attack drop 55 points on a highly regarded program like USC helped
convince McFadden that Palo Alto was the right place for him to continue his
“I had always admired Stanford.
The game ultimately that sold me was the USC game. You can watch it over and
over, and you can tell there are special type of guys that are on that
With his mind made up, there was
still one hurdle to overcome before McFadden could finalize his commitment to
the Cardinal: the Stanford admissions process.
An early commit to Princeton,
McFadden had only applied and been accepted to one school - Princeton. So when
he changed his mind about playing in the Ivy League, McFadden would have been in
a difficult situation if he didn't get into Stanford,
“If I didn't get in here, 'Conor
doesn't have a horse to ride',” McFadden said.
Never one to be overconfident
(McFadden called his near-perfect score of 35 on the ACT “lucky”) the offensive
lineman was worried about his admissions chances.
A phone call to Coach Harbaugh
put McFadden's mind at ease.
“I was like 'Coach, I need to know this'
and he goes, ‘Conor, if you do not get admitted, I'll retire on the spot as the
Stanford Football coach,’ ” McFadden said. “I believed him and I did, and there
were no problems with that.”
A few weeks into his Cardinal
career, there is no way to know for sure whether McFadden made the right choice
in coming to Stanford. It does seem apparent, though, that McFadden's decision
to play FBS/BCS football for the Cardinal is in line with the goals he hopes to
achieve in his college career.
“What I want
mostly is when I finally hang up those pads, I want to look myself in the eye
and just smile and say I had a blast and I became what I wanted to be,” McFadden
said. “I became the football player I dreamed of and no matter how the cards
fall, I hope that's what happens.”
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