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Smith: Bulldogs’ WR Conley a man of many talents

Georgia wide receiver Chris Conley – whose birth certificate reveals that he was born in Adana, Turkey – may not make it big in the National Football League, but you only have to get to know him to feel confident that you would bet the house that he is going to make it big in life.

While he has an athletic reputation to prompt any coach to drool, Conley has many sides and multiple interests.

He is an academics-first advocate (he maintained a 4.0 GPA at Paulding County High) and is passionately into music. He sings and plays the guitar. Name that tune and he can play it by ear on the piano. He can sing a cappella, a baritone with mellifluous tones, accompanied by a generous smile.

All this is complemented by a polite demeanor, which makes an appreciative interviewer take a can’t-wait stance for a society that desperately needs him.

An hour with Conley leaves you grateful that he has come this way. His passions are self-evident. His modesty is enticing, and you are quickly convinced that his leadership will impact, not only the Georgia football team, but likely an entire campus.

Conley’s athletic skills are more than worthy. He has the dimensions for the position of wide receiver – 6-foot-2, 185 pounds and 4.5-40 speed – but what he has that sets him apart is his work ethic.

A favorite pastime for him is tossing the pigskin around with his friends.

Indefatigable with an insatiable appetite for practicing the art of catching a football, he tires his friends out. They usually throw in the towel.

He enrolled at Georgia early, in part, to enhance his football objectives by having the advantage of participating in spring practice.

He gained a bonus when he learned that starting quarterback Aaron Murray likes to spend extra time on the practice field.

"That excites me," the soft-spoken Conley said.

Before taking up football in the ninth grade, Conley became intrigued by watching games from the stands. His curiosity prompted him to gain a first-hand perspective.

"I wasn’t very good, very athletic or very fast," he said with a grin.

Let’s be grateful for his curiosity.

On recruiting trips to Athens, Conley sought out A. J. Green for advice and consultation.

"It is obvious that A. J. had exceptional talent," Conley noted.

Conley is a keen observer. Resourceful and investigative, he researched University of Georgia history.

He knows the "G" transitioned from a block letter to an oval one. He knows the history of the silver britches.

It was important that he have options, which is why he was impressed with the "academic variety" at the nation’s oldest chartered state university.

He likes writing poetry and quickly adds, "But please say that my sister Catherine writes poetry very well. She is good enough to get published."

Conley likes to draw and write songs. What may come as a shock is that, while he enjoys current music of his generation, he has a fondness for a range of music – from Christian to golden oldies ("I really like Nat King Cole’s music.") to big band.

Are you on the same page with me? We see this bright, overachieving young man with limitless interests making headlines on the field and graduating with honors, an athlete with whom an "A" is just as important as catching a touchdown pass.

Georgia hasn’t had a scholar athlete like Conley since the Stinchcomb brothers, Matt and Jon.

Let me be the first to suggest that when he becomes established, we ask him to sing the national anthem before kickoff and then, just maybe, fate would smile on him, allowing him to catch a touchdown pass in the game to follow.

• Loran Smith is a contributing columnist for the Athens Banner-Herald. E-mail: loransmith@sports.uga.edu

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