Connor Stalions was destined to make an impact at Michigan. He has.

In the final video, the steady stream of about 700 Lake Orion (Mich.) High seniors from the class of 2013 finally reach last names that start with “S,” and after a while comes one of Connor Stalions. There’s that little roar that’s common at graduation ceremonies. As administrators and teachers stand to greet graduates with whom they may have developed a relationship, two male administrators appear intent on greeting the studs. Someone hands him his diploma. They both hug him. They flank him for a photo.

His energy and talent are already evident, if not loud, at almost 18 years old, and he is making his way to the Naval Academy and life. He is one of eight recipients of the Medal of Merit from his county, which was presented at the Michigan Capitol to 30 students from three counties by then-Congressman Mike Rogers’ office “to recognize, honor and acknowledge their exemplary citizenship and academic training.” “Excellence throughout her high school career.” He is the subject of a proclamation from the Orion Township Legislature this school year, with Supervisor Chris Barnett seeing Stalions as “a young man of great maturity.”

Later this month, the Class of 2013 will hold its 10-year reunion in Orion Township, the former resort town on the northern edge of Detroit’s suburbs. At this reunion, the graduates will have something to talk about that is sure to hold its own among any 10-year reunion topics that exist anywhere. They could be talking about a Lake Orion High classmate and Naval Academy graduate, Stalions, who has become one of the most colorful and daring figures in the 154-year history of the colorful and daring sport of college football, even like his former counterparts Coaches and teammates and administrators do not return calls or correspondence requesting descriptions of his personality. The reunion will take place both in the state of Michigan, where the maize and blue of University of Michigan football plays a big role in one way or another, and in the context of the sign-stealing scandal in Michigan, of which Stalions is the protagonist.

“I imagine it will be a topic,” but only one topic among many, said a classmate and meeting organizer. Many may not be familiar with Stallions in such a large class. The classmate also said: “I remember he always had a goal of joining the military. A great child. A great family. A great Lake Orion family.” And: “In my few interactions with him, he was just a really pleasant, happy person.”

The Michigan sign-stealing scandal: What you need to know

For two weeks in a row, the country has become familiar with the name “Connor Stalions,” and experts have praised the fairy-tale tenor of the name itself. The name emerged as reports suggested that Stalions was at the center of an investigation into an elaborate spying plot future opponent that would violate NCAA rules.

The name was mocked when ESPN reported that Stalions had booked spies’ tickets in his own name to nearly three dozen games of future or potential Michigan opponents from recent seasons. It has led to even more eyeballs, because after Stalions immediately deleted his social media accounts, his LinkedIn profile remained briefly, proclaiming his military talent for “identifying the enemy’s most likely and dangerous course of action and identifying critical vulnerabilities and to exploit”. And since photos emerged that appear to show Stallions wearing sunglasses on the visitors’ sideline during a Sept. 1 night game at Michigan State as the rival Spartans opened against Central Michigan, it has taken on a mythical dimension.

He is a retired Navy captain who held the position of analyst before resigning Friday night, a role somewhat new in the sport, reserved to the official coaching staff but with everyday proximity to official coaches. He is a 28-year-old man who played basketball for the Lake Orion High Dragons, who attended 6 a.m. workouts for the powerlifting team at the age of 15 in 2011, according to the Lake Orion Review, and who, according to his “Medal of “Volunteered Merit” Biography at the Grace Centers of Hope in nearby Pontiac, which describes itself as helping “people suffering from homelessness, addiction and abuse.” (Grace Centers said its attendance could not be verified because none of its current employees attended early last decade.)

He’s a young man who apparently quit football early in high school and helped out with the Navy football program as a midshipman, but who, even before the age of 30, had a special ability to rise to high places Photos featured include: Stallions in Michigan locker room with the 2021 Big Ten Trophy, Stalions with 2021 Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, Stalions as a friend to players like NFL linebacker Frank Clark, Stalions on this Michigan sideline and this one Michigan sideline and that other Michigan sideline near the major coach. He’s a guy with a $55,000 salary and a $485,000 Ann Arbor home registered in his name whose roots in the Michigan fan base predate his years on Earth.

Both parents, including a mother who was just named middle school teacher of the year (to applause from commentators), prefer their Wolverines.

“Breathe if you hate Ohio State,” his mother, Kelly, tweeted on Nov. 20, six days before Michigan beat its biggest rival 45-23, in a game that has now been examined for clues about whether Michigan appeared to be missing the signs Ohio State knows. While she has tweeted positively about certain Buckeyes, she wrote on her son’s 25th birthday: “That Block M always suited you just right.”

“I mean it,” his father, Brock, tweeted on Oct. 25, 2014, as Michigan lost 35-11 to Michigan State and fell to 3-5 in a 5-7 season, two months before Harbaugh was famously hired . “Could someone in power in Michigan do something about it? I can’t take this anymore. Please.” Two months later, he wrote, “I told the woman we can’t renew our season tickets unless Harbaugh comes.” He followed up with the cheeky hashtags “#down$1,200” and “#needaloan.”

When his mother found out about the investigation on Oct. 19, she reposted a statement from a Michigan fan: “Summary of what happened: A few teams complained about Michigan knowing their signs (which is completely legal). Because the NCAA hates Harbaugh, it launches an investigation to find out whether Michigan personally sent employees to steal the teams’ signs. This is absolute madness.”

While Connor Stalions has not commented on his newfound fame, he said this to the website Soldiers to Sidelines in January 2022, which named him “Coach of the Month”: “I grew up with the vision of coaching football my whole life in Michigan. I stopped playing soccer my freshman year of high school to coach my dad’s eighth grade soccer team. Then I decided to go to the Naval Academy after high school, where I coached the soccer team as a student. I always wanted to be a coach, but when I was given the opportunity to coach at a young age, my “why” changed. When I had that experience, I wanted to train for the Xs and the Os and the wins. Because of that experience, I became like an older brother to the players on that team, making great connections with them and realigning the internal purpose of coaching.” Sports Illustrated reported after seeing some of his writing that he claims to be a more than 550-page coaching manifesto to lead with the dream of coaching Michigan. During his time in the Navy, he traveled to Michigan frequently in hopes of supporting the football program as best he could.

The NCAA investigation began after the company received evidence from Michigan computers

The same Soldiers to Sidelines story states that Stalions “left an impression on the USNA coaching staff” and that he “worked tirelessly to help and learn from everyone in the building, including recruiting coordinator Sean Magee, who happened to be Assistant AD became.” [athletic director] at Michigan” – and now works as chief of staff for the Chicago Bears.

In the same article, author Josh Adelman reported a detailed story from Stalions about another moment from 2013: the Navy-San Jose State game in San Jose on Nov. 22. Navy won this feisty game 58-52 in triple overtime as the revered Keenan Reynolds set an NCAA record with seven rushing touchdowns by a quarterback.

According to Adelman, Stallions identified a point in that game where he realized the Navy was strategically negligent. Navy had a 31-30 lead plus possession in San Jose State territory with San Jose State’s timeouts fully expired. According to the Soldiers to Sidelines report, a Navy “receiver” rushed in for a touchdown rather than stopping along the way so the Navy could empty the clock. The story adds that although the Stalions cheered, the Marine auxiliary troops knew it. The touchdown gave the Spartans a 38-30 lead but gave them time to score and force overtime, putting Navy at risk for defeat, injury and excessive fatigue. Afterward, Stalions told Adelman, Stalions submitted a report to Magee “who received an eye-opening approval,” whereupon longtime coach Ken Niumatalolo “saw the report and had Connor immediately inform the entire coaching staff.”

After the official play-by-play, San Jose State took its final timeout with 2:43 left and Navy at San Jose State’s 20-yard line. Next came a 20-yard run by Reynolds for a touchdown – all eight plays of the possession were Reynolds runs – but plausibly a reason for the dispute. While the idea of ​​a first-year student talking to a seventh-season head coach on an established football team may have been memorable, six coaches who were a midshipman at the time of Stalions were able to join the Naval Academy staff heard, do not remember any such report or meeting.

One mention of Stalions that shows a familiarity within the Navy family came from long snapper Michael Pifer in 2018. In a standard question-and-answer session with the athletic department, Pifer responded to a question about the ideal number of teams for the College Football Playoff: “ 8. Connor Stalions convinced me.”

Lake Orion football coach Chris Bell, who played quarterback at the school in the 1980s, then returned to coach and eventually led the Dragons to their first state title in 2010 and then became athletic director, declined to comment, citing memories Stalions as students and athletes.

“Mr. Bell forwarded your email to me because I am the district spokesperson and work in the superintendent’s office,” a spokesperson wrote. “Our district media process is for our staff to report on positive opportunities and programs currently in place “Our district is running to highlight the exemplary, well-rounded education of our students. Although your request to Mr. Bell is well-intentioned, it does not align with that mission and he is unavailable to comment on your story.” Connor Stalions was destined to make an impact at Michigan. He has.

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