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Sean McConnell:
Quarterback... Teacher...


Pirate Time Machine No. 4

With Ron Cherubini
©2001 Bonesville.net

Sometimes, while taking in the impeccable execution of a group of ten to twelve-year-old middle school football players, Sean McConnell has to just shake his head and chuckle a little bit to himself.

Of course, he covers his laugh, so as not to be seen by one of his little gridders. After all, he is their coach, but to him the scene can be a very funny one. And, as the commercial has made famous, "those moments tend to be priceless."


Sean McConnell in action in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium

“(The kids) get the biggest joy of things like playing with the water or how many wristbands can they wear on one arm,” McConnell said from his home in Long Beach, California. “They want to make sure they look good. They just don’t quite get it yet, but that’s part of the fun. Then there are the serious kids— such as a 12-year-old who’s ready to break down and cry. I’ve had to call a timeout to go out there and explain to the kids, ‘OK. We’re going to toss the ball here, and then run here, OK?’ And, of course, they do the exact opposite. Sometimes, I just have to throw my hands up and…laugh.”

Coach McConnell patrols the sidelines today at West Middle School, teaching his kids, really, more about life than about football. Sure, the Xs and Os are there, but more importantly, it’s the connection with the kids — his kids.

It’s a connection McConnell experienced so intensely as a college quarterback at ECU, that he redirected his life and has never once regretted his choice.


McConnell in his days on the field as an ECU Quarterback.

McConnell could very well be forgotten amongst the college quarterback lore at ECU, tucked between the greatness that was Jeff Blake and the lost potential that was Michael Anderson. Yet, McConnell, of the three, etched a name in just 10 starts at ECU through an intensity, diligence, and commitment to excellence that so mirrored quarterback-coach-turned-head-coach, Steve Logan, that if Logan were to put on a uniform to play QB, he would be Sean McConnell.

The connections between mentor and student are well illustrated when it comes to Coach Logan, but the one quarterback that may very well be closest to the man in the mirror was McConnell. And Logan’s impact on the quarterback is still very much alive today in the 32-year-old English teacher.

“When I met Coach Logan, I was impressed — overwhelmed with how much he knew about football, life, keeping things in perspective... the important things. In many ways, I have Coach Logan to thank — or blame — for what I do now,” McConnell said. “I’ve been a teacher now for nine years, but it started with a conversation I had with Coach Logan after I blew out my knee. He said, ‘Sean, that may be the worst knee injury I have ever seen. But things happen for a reason. You may never come back from it, but I want you to stay around this football team and I want you to think about being a teacher.’ From that moment on, I knew what I wanted to do. Obviously it worked out. I came back and started as a senior and became a teacher.”

McConnell came to ECU via the Junior College route. He was a star at Cerridos Junior College, but never saw himself as a Division I football player.

“When ECU gave me a call and asked if I wanted to take a visit, I had to break out the map,” he said. “I had no idea because I was blind to the recruiting thing. At the time, I was just going through school and when they called, I was scared to death to be going all the way out there.”

He visited, he fell in love with the school and the program and he went for it.

Upon arriving at ECU, his recruiter, Mark Richt, had departed for FSU, and a young star was on the roster in Blake — and there was Logan.

“That whole experience was scary. I was from California. I was a city guy in Greenville. I dressed a little differently,” he said. “The guys I knew called me Cali… or Hollywood, but (Logan) told me that Jeff was just a sophomore and I was older and that I would have a good chance to play... So, I felt better.”

 But it wasn’t until another Pirate, Joyce Stroud, the long-time administrative assistant to the head coach, and her husband, Butch, recognized the out-of-place West Coaster that McConnell began to feel at home.

“Joyce and Butch took me under their wing. They took me in,” he said. “I still call them my mom and dad of the East Coast.”

Three thousand miles from home, McConnell found what today he still refers to as a special situation.

“I’d have to say things are pretty special at ECU,” he said. “I know a lot of guys that have gone through schools that were like factories. But that “we believe stuff” was real. I still carry around a speech that Bill Lewis gave after the Pitt game – I wrote down every word from the tape – that I keep in my wallet. Maybe other places are that special…but I don’t think so.”

For McConnell, ECU was about finding his path in life, a task made easier when a man he respected greatly pointed him in the right direction with some simple words: “I want you to think about being a teacher."

And he has never regretted. After all, it was teaching that brought him together with his wife of over three years, Deanna. And, it is teaching, that has given him an opportunity to connect with kids in a truly meaningful way — like he experienced with Logan.

“For me, even though a lot of kids don’t deserve to be out there athletically, it’s teaching those kids that school is important, and how to respect others,” he said. “At this age, they are just old enough to understand what being a good person is, but not old enough to always be one. It is good to be part of that foundation.”

And his sideline persona today is very familiar.

“My coaching — very much so from the way I talk to the way I act — is like Coach Logan. Logan is not a yeller. He is very calm, mild-mannered, and very seldom did he lose his temper. And when he did, it was for a good reason. He is very good at knowing when and how to touch a player — when to put his arm around you or when to touch your shoulder or give the high five. I try to recognize when it is time to connect with a player.”

Today, McConnell is where he is supposed to be. And, he credits ECU for putting him there.

“I can’t imagine being anywhere else, today,” he said. “And East Carolina — I know it sounds cliché — but I wouldn’t change a thing. I went out there and I was petrified, but time went by and I developed friendships up and down the east coast. Everything I am today is because of a decision ten years ago. I like to think… I know… I turned out to be a pretty good person.”

And a good teacher, too.
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SEAN MCCONNELL BIO BOX
Name:

Sean McConnell
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Age:

32
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Sport:

Football
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Years at ECU:

1990-92

(Junior college transfer from Cerridos Junior College)
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Position/Jersey No.

Quarterback/ No. 6
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Hometown:

Downey, CA
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Currently Resides:

Long Beach, CA
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Occupation:

English Teacher, West Middle School
Coach Middle School Football/Baseball
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ECU Degree(s)
  • BS Physical Ed.

  • MA Physical Ed. – Azusa Pacific University

Marital Status:

Married
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Significant Other:

Deanna
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Children:

Not yet
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Quotable: 

“I never was upset about the fact that I didn’t start 35 games or play every snap of my career. You know, my name is in the book now as a starter for 10 games as a senior at East Carolina. I went from not even knowing that I would ever play Division I football to starting my first game at Florida State. It has been very, very special to me and didn’t matter if I was behind (Jeff) Blake or (Michael) Anderson, I was the only No. 6 on the roster.”
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TEN QUESTIONS

1. Who is your favorite current Pirate and Why?

“I’d have to say David Garrard, for no other reason than that us quarterbacks have to stick together. I also like what Leonard Henry is doing, as well.”
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2. What do you miss most about ECU?

“This time of year, the fall, when the weather is changing and you can smell the grass, the football. Out here, in California, you don’t have the seasons like in Greenville. It really is a neat time of year, there.”
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3. Where is your favorite spot on the ECU campus?

“Probably up at College Hill. I enjoyed it up there. So much that I tried to stay away from class as much as possible.”
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4. What was your dorm room and favorite dorm story?

“212-Scott with Greg Gardill and then moved down to 115-A. (115-A) was the prime dorm, it was the biggest and the easiest to access. Jeff Blake, Ernie Lewis, Shane Hubble, and David Blackwell were all in that suite. 

Once, Greg Smith stole a chicken egg from his biology class and put it under a lamp up in his room and hatched it. He came down, yelling ‘it’s alive…it’s alive!!’ We all took turns taking care of it – it’s name was Fred, I think. We each had to feed it, care for it…we all shared it for a week until the chirping started to drive us crazy. We made him take it back to his professor. But for a while, we called ourselves the proud fathers of 212.”  
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5. Greatest Moment as a Pirate football player?

“The Arkansas State game. The one game that I played start to finish. It was our last home game, we won, and my family was there. It was the story book ending…to play and do well.”
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6. Most disliked opponent?

“Probably between Virginia Tech – because the were just nasty dudes – and South Carolina for the same reason. I remember a guy from South Carolina hit me, laid on top me and said some things that we can’t print here.”
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7. Athletic Influences?

“Obviously, my dad (Glenn). He was a big part of my football career when I was little. Otherwise, I have to say Coach Logan. He is probably the best teacher I’ve been around. For me, coaching is teaching. Nothing different, Xs and Os, how to stand, run and throw. He is a master at that and it was wonderful to be with him as a quarterback coach.”
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8. Favorite coach?

“Logan…I remember times where we’d go over to his house and watch football or tennis. Most of the time to watch tennis because he’s a big tennis guy. He was always very calm, very caring… me being from California, he always had an interest in whether I was homesick, so he’d say, ‘you’re not going home on me, now, are you?’.”
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9. Best Lockerroom Story

“It’s not too wild, but when we’d go on the road, a lot of people think that you just meet, wake up and play the game. But, we’d go and we’d show a movie and all the guys turned into little kids. We’d be in sweats, shoes off, everyone laying all over each other… getting comfortable. Here, you’ve got supposed grown men worried about  who you are going to be next to. On the road, you are always the outsiders, so you just stick together and watch movies.”
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10. Best Emerald City hangout?

“The popular answer is the Sports Pad and I agree, but something that I really enjoyed was all the times we stayed in the dorm room for fireside chats. We would turn on the lamp in the room and call it a fire. Everyone would sit around and just talk about home, the game, school, whatever was going on… we spent a lot of time doing that. That was the best.”
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Logan's Sideline Methodology
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By Ron Cherubini

Since Sean McConnell was a Steve Logan quarterback, I had to ask the question, “Hey, what exactly does Logan talk about when he pulls the quarterback to the side?” What follow here, is the inside scoop about what really goes on down there between Logan and his QBs, according to a man who knows:

 “Actually, a lot of the times, (the discussion) has nothing to do with the game at all,” McConnell said. “He will take you off to the side and ask, ‘Are you feeling OK?’ or “You never thought you’d be playing in front of 80,000 people did you?’ Other times, he just wanted to be sure you were relaxed and he might say, ‘You’re doing this very well’ or ‘What are you see?’

“You know he always is off to the side on one knee. He would say that he wants to get a different angle…to see the game from a different perspective. As a quarterback, to be over there with him, it made you feel special. Like a leader, pulling you off to the side, letting you talk about what you think will work, what you want to do. Nothing better than a QB saying this and this will work and the coach calling it.”
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02/23/2007 02:07:31 PM

 

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