It goes without saying that most people think NFL punters and kickers come down this side of sports writers on the athletic scale. At least it went without saying until I said it.
Anyway, when punter T.J. Conley was cut by the Jets, it got me thinking back to his incredible days at DeSales, when he was one of the best athletes in the area.
Actually, what got me to thinking about Conley was when we were putting together our football special section. I was hammering through the WIAA website for state playoff histories and was taken aback by DeSales football.
I’ve only been in the area for five years now, but I’ve covered sports in Washington going back to 1998. So when you say DeSales, I say state baseball title — 14 in 15 seasons from 1992 to 2006.
But I saw the Irish also had an extensive football pedigree, including a three-peat from 1997-99 (1999 is the one year during that incredible baseball run when they didn’t win the title).
As I saw that, I thought, ‘Oh, that must have been when Conley was there.
Well, I was wrong. Big time.
Brian Lindgren was the QB for the first two of those, and all he did was throw for a then-record 12,575 yards in his career before going on to play for Idaho. J.C. Biagi the signal-caller for the third.
Conley came along in 2000 and, as a four-year starter at quarterback, led the Irish to a pair of runner-up finishes. The last came his senior year, when Conley broke his leg in the first quarter of a 13-3 loss to Reardan in the title game. He threw for 10,147 yards, second only to Lindgren’s total when he graduated and went to Idaho (you can see how I can get Lindgren and Conley a little mixed up).
Conley also pitched on four state championship baseball teams and was a multiple player of the year in both sports.
So, as you can imagine, he was a pretty amazing athlete in his high school days. At least, he was until he became an NFL punter.