By Matt Leon
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — West Chester University has had an opening on its football coaching staff ever since Bill Shuey left back in March to become defensive coordinator at Division III Widener University.
On Wednesday, they filled that opening, naming former Strath Haven High School and Penn State star Dan Connor as linebackers coach.
“In the spring I went down there to help out with their spring ball,” Connor tells KYW Newsradio. “Knew I wanted to get into coaching, knew my football career was pretty much winding down so I gave it a shot. And I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed coaching, I enjoyed the players and I enjoyed (Head) Coach (Bill) Zwaan and his style. So it was a good fit early on and I was excited and hoping a position would open up.”
Connor enjoyed an outstanding career as linebacker at Penn State. He was first-team All America in 2007 and won the Bednarik Award that year. The Carolina Panthers drafted him in the 3rd round in 2008 and he would spend six seasons in the NFL, most of them with the Panthers. His last season in the league was 2013 and he says he is comfortable having his playing days behind him.
“I played a bunch of years in the NFL,” Connor says. “I’ve had a lot of surgeries, I’ve been operated on five or six times throughout my NFL career. So my body, its taken a little bit of abuse. You know it’s tough watching some of the NFL camps go on. It felt like the right time to hang it up and go out on my own terms. Go out feeling healthy.”
Once those playing days were done, he says there wasn’t much doubt what was next.
“I knew I wanted to coach,” Connor says. “Even through my playing career I was taking notes on coaches I liked and kind of keeping tabs on coaching stuff that I knew worked, worked for me and worked for other players. Ever since I started playing, especially at a higher level, I knew that next step for me would be coaching. I come from a family of coaches. My brothers, my dad all coached, so I knew that was going to be my next step, so I’d been preparing for awhile.”
West Chester is coming off a phenomenal season as they advanced to the national semifinals, going 13-2. They have a lot of talent coming back and one of the deepest, most talented positions on the 2014 roster is linebacker.
“It’s exciting,” Connor says. “I was so impressed all through the spring. It’s a Division II level, but the talent they have there is easily Division I caliber. Guys who can make plays, guys with great range, great attitude, coachable guys and that’s a pleasant surprise. That makes coaching a hundred times easier, when you can go over something in a meeting and then twenty minutes later the guys know how to do it on the field. It’s a great group and it’s a group to be excited about.”
West Chester opens the 2014 season on September 6th, on the road at the University of New Haven.
You can follow Matt on Twitter @mattleonkyw.