C.J. Conrad’s path to the NFL was not an easy road to traverse.
The Big Blue Nation is quite familiar with Conrad’s story. Once a mid-round selection, a health scare discovered at the NFL Combine nearly derailed his football career. It knocked him out of the draft before he found a home with the New York Giants. Thanks to a profile by North Jersey, a USA Today affiliate, New York fans know Conrad’s story and UK fans know how he ended up in New York.
Conrad first met Giants tight end coach Lunda Wells at the East-West Shrine Game. Once an injury in practice sent him home early, Wells was anxious to formally interview Conrad at the Combine. The day before their planned meeting, Conrad received bad news.
“We were always supposed to meet officially, then I got sent home, and Coach Wells joked that I was avoiding him,” Conrad recalled. “He called me right after I left the Combine, and said a prayer for me, and told me he’d be thinking of me, and they thought a lot of me as a player, and it meant the world to me going through those three weeks. Then, after I got cleared, and he texted me again a couple of days before the draft and said, ‘I’m thinking of you, happy for you, good luck this weekend.’”
The former UK tight end was on the Giants’ board, but he did not get selected in the NFL Draft. As soon as the free agency period began, Wells gave Conrad a call.
“I like Conrad. He’s tough. He’s smart. He can learn,” Wells said. “He’s not a blazer, but he’s instinctive in the pass game. It didn’t take a long time to figure out that this guy is very determined about being a really good player and I like that about him. He takes coaching very well. I really like that kid from what we saw over the three-day rookie minicamp.”
Conrad made a good first impression, but cracking the 53-man roster will not be easy. The Giants currently have four tight ends: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson and second-year pro Garrett Dickerson.
Conrad has survived unlikely odds before. This pales in comparison to the challenge he faced just a few months ago.