I posted this about a month ago in a thread, but with the Rutgers game coming this Thursday night, I figured we could revisit it.
Some of you may wonder why I wear a #35 Anthony Conner Jersey to every football game. Why? Do I like the number 35? Darrell Griffith? Angel McCoughtry? Frank Thomas? Really? Frank Thomas? Do you know me? Anyway, No. I chose that jersey because of what it represents to me. In a game between Louisville and Rutgers in 2011, something special happened. On the first play of the second quarter, Anthony Conner, #35, went low to make a vicious tackle on Mohammad Sanu. In doing so, he broke his neck and was out for the season, but luckily was not paralyzed. This moment in the game against Rutgers in 2011 was a true turning point for the University of Louisville Football Program.
At this point, the Louisville Football team, who was 2-4 in the season, had a decision to make. Either sit the rest of the season out along side of AC, or play the game in honor of the Senior who would not have the opportunity to play another down the rest of his collegiate career. The CARDS went out and willed a win over Rutgers 16-14. The next week at home against Syracuse, the man with the broken neck WALKED into the CARDS locker room while everyone’s heads were down during the prayer before the game. When they looked up, the place erupted. They had a reason to play. He stood on the sideline in a neck-brace the rest of the season. Images of Kevin Ware sitting right next to the court in Atlanta flash in your mind.
The CARDS went on to win 5 of their last 6 regular season games, and make a bowl game. From 2-4 to 7-5 to finish the regular season. Something happened when that AC went down. Not only did the team play for each other, they really became a family. And I’m not talking about the kind that you put on the back of your jersey as a ploy for national TV on a Thursday night game, I’m talking about the name on the Front. That was one of the first time under Strong that they really played for something more. It was the first time that they realized football is just a game, but for some at times, it is more than that. It was one of the first major moments that L1C4 really meant something, even before it was a thing. That was the moment that this football program returned to the meaning of Louisville.
So, I proudly wear the jersey of AC, one Anthony Conner, to remind myself, and hopefully some of our fans, that Louisville football is about more than wins and losses and run blocking and passing. It is about laying it all out there and hoping/showing that it is good enough. It is about giving your all for your brother and having each others back. It is about defying odds and defeating them. This team has shown, over the past 26 games that it is Louisville. They are 22-4 since AC went down, and I still believe that Anthony Conner is, if only a small reason, a reason that we have played and will continue to play the way we do. I don't think this team has forgotten this. While it is one thing to play for the opportunity for a National Championship, and undefeated season, the first ever The American Athletic Conference Championship (?), or even the record books, knowing that this team has something like the story that has been taught for the last 26 games is inspiring and comforting at the same time. This team has more than enough reason to keep "playing their balls off." In honor of Conner. Go CARDS!!