A few years ago, the union seemed unlikely.
The football coach was just embarking on a career at the highest level in college. As for the kid, well he wasn’t exactly the biggest teenager at Lake-Lehman High School.
“When I started as a freshman, it seems like it was just yesterday,” Connor McGovern said. “It went by so fast, my high school career. My freshman year, I was 5-9, 185. Now I’m 6-5, 310. The roster my freshman year said I was 6-foot, but I was 5-9. And it said I was a little over 200. I was small.”
It’s hard to imagine McGovern, the Times Leader Player of the Year for football, ever being small. His measurements are legitimate and so was his play on both sides of the line for the Black Knights. As a center, he recorded an incredible 142 pancake blocks — where a defender is driven into the ground — in 11 games this season. As a defensive tackle, he had 137 tackles, 10 sacks, six forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
McGovern is ranked the No. 3 center in the country and the No. 7 recruit in Pennsylvania by 247Sports Composite, which bases its rankings on an average given by all recruiting services. He’ll be heading off to Penn State next month to join second-year coach James Franklin’s program and get a jump on his football and academic careers and, hopefully, help out a much-maligned offensive line. He said Penn State doesn’t intend on redshirting him.
Genetics played a part in McGovern’s success on the football field. His father, Lake-Lehman superintendent Jim McGovern, was a football standout at Crestwood and went on to play at Colgate University. His mother, the former Maureen Fahey, starred in basketball at Bishop O’Reilly and was a 1,000-point scorer at King’s College.
Bloodlines, though, can carry an athlete only so far. Hard work and dedication are necessary as well and McGovern has both. Lehman football coach Jerry Gilsky said numerous times that McGovern constantly did everything needed to become better.
And he’s still doing it.
“After school I have yoga class for a little over an hour,” McGovern said as he sat in the school’s weight room. “After that, I work out and then do all offensive drills after that. So I’m here until about 8 o’clock every night.”
Soon those workouts will shift to State College. McGovern graduated from high school just before Christmas and will embark on a couple busy weeks. He’ll head to San Antonio on Jan. 2 for practices leading up to the nationally televised US Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 9. He’ll be only the third Wyoming Valley Conference player to participate in the game since its inception in 2001.
“It’s going to be a great experience playing the first time on live TV,” McGovern said. “Then with all the fans there, it’s going to get me ready for Penn State. You get to go against really good competition down there.”
Two days after the game in San Antonio, McGovern will be on campus at Penn State. He verbally committed to the Nittany Lions prior to his senior year. North Carolina was the runner-up in a field of numerous college choices.
“It’s going to be a little hectic,” McGovern said, “but I’ll get through it.”
Reach John Erzar at 570-991-6394 or on Twitter @TLJohnErzar