Moving people is a specialty for Connor Brown. And given his size, college football has always been a dream since his playing days in high school in Binghamton.
“It is very different," Brown said of the difference between high school and college football. "A lot faster, but I like the brothership. That’s what I’ve always loved growing up.”
Before attending RPI, Brown was a two-time New York state champion. The view from the top is something he will remember forever.
“Even if you look in my bedroom, all the pictures around my room and that I brought to college are of the friends I had in high school from the States games, playoff games or even bonfires that we’d have,” Brown said.
But his football career was nearly sidelined before he could ever strap on a helmet. At the age of 4, four years before he ever stepped foot on a field, he was diagnosed with leukemia, a form of blood cancer that hinders the body’s ability to fight off infection.
“I remember being really weak all the time, not really wanting to leave the bed," Brown said. "The most activity I’d have during a day would be to walk down the hallway and walk back.”
For two years, Brown fought for his life, undergoing chemotherapy and radiation therapy before being declared cancer-free at age 6. But when Brown decided to play football, his cancer fight left him in an uneasy place.
“I was way behind," Brown said. "Not only physically but socially. My first practice, I barely knew how to run. It was more of a stomping thing for the first year. Socially, I just didn’t have many friends. I missed out on that block of time, mostly my whole year of kindergarten. I didn’t really talk to anyone my age.”
That alone would be enough for some to quit and find a different passion. But not for Brown. He saw football as a way to define himself.
“I started just working out with a friend of mine," he said. "His dad was a coach and he lifted with a few friends of ours and that’s when everything really started to come together. My academics picked up by my physical shape got better. I was starting to do really good in football.”
Now he finds himself at one of the best engineering schools in the country, playing on one of the best DIII football teams. But in the back of his mind, Brown was always remember what he’s been through. And hopes to never take another minute of his life for granted.
“I definitely think about that sometimes, like where I came from," he said. "Struggling for my life to where I am now. Even the worst conditioning parts. In high school we used to do awful conditioning. I remember thinking of how far I’ve already come. There’s no sense of quitting because I’ve come so far.”
It’s just a reminder that football helped him through the tough times. And football has gotten him on the path to success when his career comes to a close.