A pair of Lakota West graduates will face off in tonight’s preseason game between the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium.
Fullback John Conner, who was showcased in HBO’s “Hard Knocks: Training Camp with the New York Jets,” will line up for the Jets, while linebacker Grant Hunter hopes to get the opportunity to play for the Cincinnati Bengals in his first NFL game.
Throughout the HBO series in 2010, Conner earned praise from his teammates and coaches. One of the more memorable quotes from the series was from Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who said, “the thing I like about Conner is that you don’t have to see him play, you can hear him play.”
The 2005 Lakota West graduate made the final roster that season as a rookie out Kentucky and eventually became the starting fullback last fall. This year, according Andy Benoit of the New York Times NFL Blog, Conner figures to be a big part of the ground game.
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Meanwhile, Hunter is in a different position. Currently, the 2007 Lakota West grad is listed fourth on the Bengals depth chart at one of the outside linebacker positions.
Last fall, at Butler, Hunter led his team in sacks with 10 and in tackles for loss with 15.5. During the NFL Draft process, Hunter worked out for the Bengals and the Indianapolis Colts. In early May, the Bengals signed Hunter as a college football free agent.
According to a story posted on the Butler University official athletic website, Hunter almost didn’t answer the Bengals’ phone call when he noticed it was a 513 area code and thought that it was a telemarketer or an automated sales call.
“It turned out it was the linebackers’ coach from the Bengals, and I think I was speechless for about five minutes,” Hunter told butlersports.com. “I just remember saying thank you over and over again. It was probably one of the happiest moments of my life.”
The former head coach of both players, Lakota West’s Larry Cox, said that he hopes to attend tonight’s game, which kicks off at 7:30 p.m. The game will be televised locally on WKRC on tape delay at 11:35 p.m. and live on NFL Network (blacked out in Cincinnati, Dayton and Lexington).
“I’m so proud of both John and Grant. They are providing a great example for what is possible when given a chance,” Cox said. “Neither one was really recruited out of high school, but they didn’t let that get in their way and have shown what can happen with a strong will and desire.
“Their personalities are very similar,” Cox continued. “They really don’t say much, but their hustle, attitude and play speaks volumes not only about what they do, but who they are. They are just great people that happen to be great athletes and they have put it all together. All of the Lakota West family is proud.”