By Moses Leos III
Prior to his trip to the Semper Fidelis All-American Bowl in Carson, CA, Hays High Rebel offensive lineman Connor Lanfear had never flown on an airplane. But a three-hour flight to Los Angeles helped this high school senior start to daydream about big-time college football.
And while he was able to gauge himself against top talent in the Semper Fi bowl on Jan. 4, Lanfear also had a long-known lesson reinforced.
“When you look at it, you not only play for yourself, you play for the guy next to you…especially on the offensive line,” Lanfear said. “It’s a brotherhood in the trenches.”
Lanfear’s experience in the Semper Fi bowl officially began on Dec. 28. That’s when he and the other athletes took part in tough three-hour workouts.
Learning an up-tempo offense in the span of less than a week was one challenge faced by Lanfear and his teammates. In addition, the time off from the end of the season also played a factor.
However, Lanfear said his body got used to contact after the second day. His time within the Hays Rebel offense — also a fast-paced, up-tempo style based on discipline — eased that transition.
“It prepared me for that well, and I knew what was happening,” Lanfear said. “The quarterback made the calls and we went from that.”
But an unexpected element was the addition of Marine Corps drill instructors. Lanfear said they harbored a similar intensity to how they approach new Marine Corps recruits.
According to Lanfear, that intensity bolstered his level of respect for Marines. He got the full experience of being a Marine recruit, with coaches yelling and screaming.
“They were on us all the time, they were asking us to give more and to sacrifice,” Lanfear said. “If you think about it, that’s what Marines do.”
While the practices were grueling, they were also beneficial. Lanfear worked with and against some of the top college recruits in the country.
The highlight was practicing against Rowlett High senior and Texas Longhorn commitment Charles Omenihu. Their battles were posted on the Internet, with many positive comments.
“It was fun, because I was playing against the caliber of guys I would be going up against over the next four or five years at [Texas A&M],” Lanfear said.
The players’ experience wasn’t limited to practice. They visited locales such as the Santa Monica Pier and Universal Studios Hollywood. Lanfear said both experiences helped the team bond.
Equally rewarding for Lanfear was playing football and going through Marine Corp-style drills with underprivileged youth in an area outside of Compton, CA.
But the intensity hit its peak as the lights shone on game day.
Players wanted to present a good showing for family and future coaches. But those anxieties dissipated as the players entered the field.
“When you leave the tunnel, with all of those cameras over you, it was a great feeling,” Lanfear said. “But I can only imagine what it’s going to be like when I’m at A&M in front of 112,000 people.”
Ultimately, Lanfear’s team, the West team, fell 24-3. During that experience, Lanfear, who earned the starting right tackle spot, split time with teammates.
Lanfear said he felt he performed well, earning a few pancake blocks along the way.
But it was one block toward the end of the game that resonated with him.
“I saw the quarterback scrambling around and the defensive tackle had an angle on him,” Lanfear said. “So I sprinted over there…I got up underneath him, popped him pretty good and put him on his back.”
Now back in Texas, Lanfear prepares for his letter of intent signing in February.
But the reinforcement of backing up his teammates is what he’ll take away from his bowl experience.
“You have to be a close unit and trust the guy next to you,” Lanfear said. “Trust, and camaraderie is key. It’s something I’ll have to do in college.”