By Ells Boone
This article is part of a running series The Daily sports staff is publishing on graduating seniors.
Connor Wedington is a senior wide receiver for the Stanford football team. He is coming off of a junior season in which he recorded 51 receptions for 506 yards and one touchdown en route to earning an All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention as well as a spot on both the AFCA Good Works Team and the Pac-12 All-Academic Honor Roll. Ahead of the 2020 season, he has been named to the Hornung Award watch list, given to “the most versatile player in college football,” the Wuerffel Trophy watch list, given to “the FBS player who best combines exemplary community service with leadership achievement on and off the field,” and Athlon Preseason All-Pac-12 first team kick returner. The Daily’s Ells Boone spoke with Wedington, who shared his thoughts on the COVID-19 lockdown, abbreviated upcoming season and his Stanford experience.
The Stanford Daily (TSD): When did you first fall in love with football? And what made it so special for you?
Connor Wedington (CW): I first fell in love with football when actually I was playing on the original Xbox, so Madden. That was when I was about five years old, and then I started playing football when I was six. Over time I realized that this was something that I was pretty good at and that I loved. Over the years, as I progressed, I saw the potential I had and the opportunities that I had to completely change my life and my family’s trajectory. So that’s when I really became just obsessed with it.
TSD: What drew you to Stanford when you were going through the recruiting process?
CW: So it’s funny. In my recruiting process, I was actually committed to my hometown team, which was the University of Washington. Then when I got that Stanford offer — I mean, it’s Stanford, you know — I knew I had to come and visit and at least check it out for the sole purpose of it being the number one university in the world. Once I got to campus, once I met some guys on the team and saw the atmosphere of the team, I saw minds that were just like mine. I saw people that were like me, and I saw amazing things. And then I knew. I knew that this was the place where I belonged.
TSD: What has been your favorite part of your Stanford experience so far, both football-wise and outside of football?
CW: In terms of football, it’s really just playing the sport that I love and my teammates love with these people, these friends, these teammates that have become family to me. [It’s] just enjoying this time and these experiences with these lifelong friends. And then in terms of non-football, there’s a lot to it. Stanford is such an amazing place, but I’d ultimately say it’s the people that you meet. Every person at Stanford is interesting in their own way. They’re brilliant in their own way, and they have a whole story in life that has led them to Stanford. So really, the people at Stanford that I’ve met have been one of my favorite parts.
TSD: You had a pretty impressive year last year, being named to the Pac-12 All-Academic Honor Roll, the AFCA Good Works Team (which only 11 FBS players accomplish a year) and also All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention. How important is it to you to be well rounded in life? And what did it mean to be recognized for those accolades?
CW: Those awards meant a lot. One, it showed me that my hard work is paying off, but it also showed me that my hard work has not been enough. The way I am, I always strive to be better and want more in every facet of my life. And I think that it’s gotten me to this point in my life. I think that’s how, as a team and as an individual, you become successful [and] win championships — always striving to be better, always improving.
In terms of being well rounded as a person, I think it’s extremely important for every individual, myself too, to have balance in life. That involves physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, social, every aspect of life. I’ve learned that when one person is balanced, that’s when they’re most full in life. I’m not happy within when I’m all in on one thing and don’t spread my energies around and develop all aspects of my life.
TSD: Not only are you one of Stanford’s leading receivers, but you are also the kick returner for the team. What gets you more excited? Returning a kickoff for a touchdown or catching a touchdown?
CW: You know, this is an interesting question. At the end of the day, I love scoring touchdowns regardless of how it happens — whether it’s running the ball, catching the ball or returning the kick — but I have to admit that there’s nothing like returning a kick to the house. I definitely plan on doing that a couple of times this year.
TSD: What did you do during these last few months of the pandemic lockdown during the spring and summer when you could not be on campus?
CW: During lockdown, I actually went back to my hometown in Washington, and I trained at Ford Sports Performance. It’s this training facility that high school and college athletes, as well as NFL athletes, all train [at]. I was actually fortunate enough to be training with Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, D.K. Metcalf, Josh Gordon and a lot of other players over the course of the lockdown. So even though it was unfortunate not being with the team, I felt like I still was able to get in a lot of development over this time.
TSD: What was it like getting to train with those high caliber guys, and what do you think you took away the most from getting to work with them?
CW: At the end of the day, when you’re going up against these people who will have gold jackets and be in the Hall of Fame one day, it’s that they have so much knowledge. The mental aspect of the game, they know so much. There’s a lot of little details that they all showed me that are just very specific, in terms of running your route or pre-snap post-snap. Very little details that the average eye doesn’t see, but when you’re playing the game, it makes a huge difference.
TSD: What was your reaction when the Pac-12 first announced that they would not be playing football this fall? And then what was your reaction when they reversed that decision a few months later and decided to play?
CW: First, I was hurt. It would be the first time I wasn’t playing football in the fall in 15 years. That was a crazy thought to me, but I was forced to accept it because the Pac-12 announced that they were canceling all fall sports for 2020. But then when they reversed it, that was very shocking, and honestly I felt like it was a bit rushed. But at the end of the day, it made me very excited to play.
TSD: What do you think it is going to be like playing this season with no fans, especially the away games?
CW: It’s going to be different. At the end of the day, I get my motivation from my personal “why” and my teammates. That’s really all the things that I need to get energized and to get motivated for a football game. But at the same time, it’s hard for me to really speak on that subject because my whole life, I’ve never played in front of no fans. So, it’s hard for me to fully speak on what my reaction will be until we face Oregon Week 1.
TSD: Do you have a go-to pregame routine?
CW: Yeah. It generally switches up a little bit every year. I think routine is important. I think to get in the right mental space, the right physical space, there has to be some sort of routine that can sway a little bit week to week, depending on adversity and who you’re facing, but there has to be some sort of routine to set you up physically and mentally for every game and every practice.
TSD: What are your expectations for the upcoming season — both for the team and yourself personally?
CW: My expectation for this team is to win every single game, take it week by week and at the end of the day, bring home the Axe and bring home the Pac-12 Championship. And then individually, I expect myself to help the team win in any way I can, be a team leader, be a person that is always willing to give 100% effort, be a game changer on the field. At the end of the day, at the end of the season, I want to set myself up to get drafted in the NFL.
TSD: The wide receiver position group is arguably the deepest and most talented position group, not only on the Stanford football team, but in the conference and the nation. Aside from some of the main contributors like yourself, who do you think could have a breakout year?
CW: Just talking about this receiving corps gets me excited. I believe that this team is amazing, but specifically talking about this receiving corps, I think it’s one of the best, if not the best, in the country. I think there’s going to be many players that are going to shine. It’s hard to pinpoint one or two — but I mean, Mike Wilson, Simi Fehoko, Osiris St. Brown, Elijah Higgins, Brycen Tremayne, the freshman John Humphreys and there’s more to that. I really think it’s going to be week by week and over the course of this season you’re going to see that the receiving corps has playmakers all over the field.
This transcript has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.