Georgia sophomore Chris Conley is juggling a lot of books these days.
UGA receiver Conley making moves on field, as member of NCAA's student-athlete committee
Not only is he dealing with textbooks and playbooks, but he’s also got another publication that clamors for his attention — the NCAA’s 500-page rulebook.
Last month, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound receiver from North Paulding High School attended his first meeting as a member of the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The committee is comprised of a student-athlete from each of Division I’s 31 member conferences (Conley is representing the Southeastern Conference) and reports directly to the NCAA Leadership Council.
“It’s a great honor,” said Conley of being named to the committee. “The NCAA is allowing me an opportunity to be the student-athletes’ voice, not only at the University of Georgia, but also for the SEC and on a national level. It’s a great opportunity to be a servant and try to help student-athletes.”
Conley, who will serve a two-year term on the SAAC, said when the committee met recently in Indiana, several topics were broached, not the least of which was the NCAA’s often ponderous list of regulations, which an NCAA committee is now in the process of rewriting.
“We go over any and everything — any issue or concern that is voiced to me,” said Conley, a pre-journalism major who was named to the SEC Academic Honor Roll and the UGA Athletic Director’s Honor Roll as a freshman. “I need to let people know they can come to me, not only on the university level but a national level.
“Some of the topics we’ve discussed were the Miscellaneous Expense Act, which would provide stipends for student-athletes, and the NCAA rulebook, which has gotten heftier over the last several years. This (appointment) basically allows us to be the voice of the student-athlete. It’s not faceless committees or older people making the decisions about student-athletes; we get a say and get to share our opinions.”
Conley’s appointment has impressed his teammates.
“Chris is a great player and a great person,” said fellow receiver Michael Bennett. “He’s one of my good friends. He was accepted for the SAAC, which is pretty cool and shows just how much his voice matters here and around the nation. He’s a great player. He made a big splash last year and contributed immensely to the team.”
On the field, Conley has been able to excel primarily as a receiver — he caught 16 passes for 288 yards and two touchdowns in 2011 — but he helped No. 7 Georgia immensely last Saturday in its 45-23 season-opening victory over Buffalo.
Conley’s block — the first the Bulldogs have recorded since 2010 — early in the second quarter set Georgia up on its opponent’s 23-yard line, eventually leading to a Marshall Morgan field goal and a 17-6 lead. He also caught a pair of passes good for 20 yards.
“Chris has helped us on a couple of special teams and getting that punt (block) was awesome,” said Georgia coach Mark Richt, whose team has drawn the card to be Missouri’s first SEC opponent at 7:50 p.m. today. “It was great to see because we didn’t have any blocks last year, so it was nice to get another block under our belt. He also played well at the wide receiver position.”
For his part, Conley said the blocked punt worked out precisely as the Georgia coaches foretold.
“The coaches did a great job of game-planning and watching film,” he said. “They knew the Buffalo punter liked to rugby kick it sometimes and we had the block called, and
they came out and did exactly what we thought they’d do. I was able to get
into the backfield and make a play.”
“That blocked punt was huge,” said Bennett, who caught five passes for 76 yards and a touchdown. “That just shows that the selfless player doesn’t take a special-teams play off. He’s an all-around great player and a great person.”
Considering Richt’s regard for former All-American David Pollack, he offered quite a compliment to Conley when he compared him to the Bulldogs defensive icon.
“He’s a guy that reminds me a little bit of Pollack in terms of work ethic,” said Richt of Conley. “Every day in practice, every rep, he practices so hard. He runs hard every rep in practice. Even in conditioning drills you can tell he’s going as hard as he can go. And because of that, he’s in good enough condition to play on a hot, steamy day on a couple of special teams and at wide receiver. I’m proud of the job he did.”
The comparison was an honor, Conley said.
“Being a Bulldog, one of the first things you learn about is the Bulldog greats, and David Pollack is certainly one of those people,” Conley said. “To be mentioned in the same sentence with him is really an honor. And to know Coach Richt thinks enough of me to say that emphasizes to me about the way I work and the way I prepare. It’s important to be as ready as you can in
any situation. It’s an honor and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”