By LARRY VAUGHT
I thought one day C.J. Conrad might be back in Lexington — but not until he played several years in the NFL.
Instead, he’s now back at UK with an off-the-field graduate coaching position and will be working on a master’s degree in sport leadership at UK.
From 2015-18, Conrad had 80 catches for 1,015 yards in 49 games. His 12 touchdown catches are the second most — behind James Whalen’s 13 — in UK history.
My buddy Jacob Tamme, who played nine years in the NFL, had 11 touchdown catches).
Conrad always reminded me a lot of Tamme with his on-field ability but also his off-field compassion. He was the 2018 Pop Warner National College Football Award winner for his accomplishments on the field, in the classroom and in the community. He was also named to the 2018 SEC Community Service Team and was a four-time SEC academic honor roll member.
He seemed set for a NFL career much like Tamme did. But at the NFL combine after the 2018 season his physical showed a heart issue. He was later cleared to play but lost his chance to get drafted. He signed a free agent deal with the New York Giants and was on the practice squad.
Not sure what made him decide not to give the NFL another shot. Maybe it was COVID-19 worries. Maybe it’s a physical concern. Maybe he just didn’t like the NFL life. Whatever the reason, he’s obviously ready to move on.
The good news is that having a player with his talent/character around the 2020 football team can only help. He won’t be on the field coaching but don’t doubt that his influence will still be felt.