The Great Wall of Texas: Senior NT Conner Novotny
"I've learned over a period of years there are setbacks when you come up against the immovable object; sometimes the object doesn't move." Coleman Young
*During the reign of Qin Shi Huang (220-206 BC), the 5,500-mile Great Wall of China was built. The first emperor oversaw the construction of the structure along the northern border of China to protect his dynasty from assorted nomadic groups or military incursions by various warlike peoples or forces.
During the two-year reign of The Shelton School's George Teague as head football coach, he has built his defense around a 6', 315 lb human anchor at nose tackle. The 1993 #1 draft pick of the Green Bay Packers knows that a force in the middle can fortify his defense from enemy running backs and opposing quarterbacks.
"He reminds me a lot of Gilbert Brown, who I played with in Green Bay. Unreal strength with enough side-to-side quickness and straight-forward explosion to command a constant double team. Often triple-teamed!" proclaimed Teague.
"Even more important is the kind of high-character person Conner is. I use him as a sounding board when I gauge the team's temperament toward new schemes and workouts. He gives me frank, honest answers. And that helps maintain positive team morale."
Conner Novotny was destined to be a lineman.
"He was always a big kid," his mother Barbara told me.
"He was a natural to play along the line. Conner always had brute strength and a passion for the game. It takes a special kind of player to take on two, sometimes three, offensive linemen at a time," she added.
John DiCaro is Conner's defensive teammate at Shelton. The 6'2", 215 pound linebacker is the team's leading tackler and a major college prospect himself. He knows that having his friend in the middle of the Chargers' defense in front of him makes his job a lot easier.
"Conner is almost immovable. No one offensive lineman can handle him. It is not just constant double teams, but mainly triple teams. That opens up clear tackling lanes for the other linebackers and me," added DiCaro.
Conner Novotny himself is such a humble, soft-spoken kid that it was hard to get him to talk about himself for this feature.
"I'm not in to trash talking or self-promotion. I let my actions on the field speak for itself,"
When asked what current player either in the college ranks or pros he most resembles, Novotny replied:
"I really can't say. I let those around me compare me to to others. They can see better than I can. I have my hands full out there!"
It was that attitude that allowed Conner Novotny to overcome the challenges of dyslexia.
Developmental reading disorder (DRD), or dyslexia, occurs when there is a problem in areas of the brain that help interpret language. It is not caused by vision problems. The disorder is a specific information processing problem that does not interfere with one’s ability to think or to understand complex ideas. Most people with DRD have normal intelligence, and many have above-average intelligence.
The Shelton School is known for its reputation in teaching strategies to excel scholastically by instilling strategies to overcome the affliction.
Mom Barbara has been a school board member since Conner was in 5th grade.
"The Shelton School is a truly special place. Besides academic lessons, the faculty provides these kids with the necessary life skills to succeed in the real world. They instill a sense of confidence in their students that is unmatched."
Whether it is Conner's coaches, teachers, teammates, family or friends, the consistent message of work ethic was voiced repeatedly.
"I had an optional weight room open session over Easter break in the Spring," Coach Teague told me. "The only player to show up: Conner Novotny. And I eventually had to kick him out so I could go home!"
The rare combination of pure strength and athleticism carried over to track and field where Novotny was a state qualifier in the hammer and shot put, earning him an invite to Baltimore in late July for the Junior Olympics.
While Novotny thrives on the competition that athletics offer, his most meaningful contributions extend far beyond the track and playing field. An Eagle Scout at age 15, Novotny gets great satisfaction over his volunteer work in the community. His affection for working with the elderly through his church's "Holy Rollers" program is most noteworthy, whether it's building ramps to make dwellings wheelchair accessible or personally escorting them at various religious functions.
"I like to push myself, whether it's on the field or off. I am my own harshest critic. If you are never satisfied, that makes you constantly work harder than the other guy," Novotny mused.
Conner plans to major in either engineering or civil law in college. He hopes to lead Shelton deep into the playoffs and hopefully a state crown before he starts university life.
To conclude our conversation, Coach Teague told me:
"When opposing centers look across the line and see Conner, they know they are in for a long day. You can see the terror in their eyes."
People often wonder what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. Novotny's football prowess speaks for itself. His talent for wreaking havoc in the middle of the line of play will get him an opportunity to play at the next level for a top college program. More importantly, his ability to overcome early challenges has proven that he will be an even more formidable force in life.
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