By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — C.J. Conrad is fully focused on football and helping Kentucky prepare for the upcoming season as the Wildcats navigate through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we’re doing as coaches, we have to act as if we are 1,000 percent having a season,” he said. “If you don’t and we have (a season), then you are going to come unprepared. Our guys are doing a great job of being very business-like and (members of) the coaching staff are doing a good job preparing these guys like things are completely normal even though things aren’t (normal). We’re going to continue along and be ready for Sept. 3.”
The former University of Kentucky standout is ready to begin his coaching career and will get his start where his collegiate playing career ended. Conrad has joined Kentucky’s coaching staff as an off-the-field graduate assistant this season as he pursues a degree in sports leadership.
“I’m super excited to be back after being a year away from this program and how we continue to come along and continue to make strides under coach (Mark) Stoops,” he said Wednesday. “I’m very excited to get back to a program where I felt like I made an impact and I will continue to do that from the coaching side.”
Conrad finished his college career as one of the most prolific tight ends in school history. Conrad hauled in 80 catches for 1,015 yards and 12 touchdowns.
Following his collegiate career, Conrad spent last season as a member of the New York Giants’ practice squad but was released during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, bringing an end to his playing career.
“I think I’m done playing football,” he said. “Basically I was signed to a futures contract after the season and I was with (the Giants) for a portion of the season on the practice squad. I was going through training and getting ready for (this) season and stuff and we went through a pandemic and so no one could work out or report to the facility. After the (NFL) Draft, we went over our numbers and wanted about 90 guys and they decided to part ways with me.”
Typically free agents get an opportunity to work out for other teams, but the coronavirus made things more difficult for free agents like Conrad to receive another opportunity.
“It was tough for a guy like me to be a free agent and not have any workouts,” he said. “It just got to a point for me that I didn’t want to sit around and wait anymore. I’m very content and happy with my career as a college football player and my short time in the NFL. (Being a coach) is something that I wanted to pursue with a program like the University of Kentucky. Coach Stoops has done an amazing job and I wanted to be a part of something special again. That’s why I’m here.”
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Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.