Q&A with Pat Conniff
Oct. 31, 2000
Describe the last drive of the Stanford game, knowing that it rested on the offense's shoulders?
Conniff: "It was a chance for us to make a statement for what we have to do, that we weren't going to give up. It was important for us to show that, and we came out and executed, beyond belief actually. It was more than anybody could ask for and it was awesome to be a part of."
When you missed several games due to a knee injury, did you learn things you couldn't on the field?
Conniff: "You realize what you have been able to be a part of. You get a chance to look, and reflect and be thankful for what you have been given and that you have been able to have the opportunities you have had. College football is an awesome experience, whether it is one game or all four years. It has been awesome."
What is it like for you know that experience is about to come to an end?
Conniff: "It is going to be a tough moment in my life. I have lived and breathed football for so long and when I am not going to be a part of it, it is going to be a little different. It is going to be strange. It is going to be tough, but it will be another milestone in my life."
Do you think about football after college?
Conniff: "It is always a dream of every little boy to be a professional athlete. It is one of my dreams, but I think that if I focus on that I will lose respect for our season and I don't want to cheat any of my teammates. My goal right now is to get to the Rose Bowl."
Obviously, the win over Stanford was another step in that direction. Was coming out of such an emotional game with the victory you needed different than other wins you have experienced?
Conniff: "It was definitely different. It wasn't as important to us. It was important obviously, but knowing that our teammate, our family member, Curtis Williams was hurt, that was our main focus. Our focus was on him and we were concerned with what was happening with him and football was irrelevant at the time."
Is there any game that sticks out in your four year career that you will remember more that others?
Conniff: "This one (Stanford) is going to be up there. The Arizona State game that we won with Reggie Davis in the last second was a special win. This was a special win as well from what transpired throughout the whole game. This is going to be with me forever I think."
How do you adjust after a game like that? Is there a different preparation to make sure you remain focused and don't lose it?
Conniff: "It can't stay the same, it increases every week. This is a big week for our program. You have to realize that and you have to come out prepared as if it the biggest week of the year, which it is."
Arizona has the sixth-ranked rush defense in the country, how does knowing that affect your game plan?
Conniff: "Our respect for them is really high right now. We know that they are one of the tougher teams in the country. Their defense is going to challenge us. We will be able to see exactly where our team is at at this stage in our season."
What is it going to take for this team to get to achieve its goals?
Conniff: "We are going to have to stay focused and stay hungry. We are going to have to pull together more than ever now that Curtis is down. He is such a corner piece to our program and I think he is going to be a corner piece still. He is going to be a major part of this team."
Is there a motivation to play as Curtis would have, with him being hurt?
Conniff: "There could be. I know that he wants us to go out there and I know it is going to be on all of our minds. It definitely puts the exclamation point on our season and on our goals."
Do you have goals for yourself each game, or do you just try to go out and do your best to get the win?
Conniff: "That is your first goal, to do your best. Each week you have different assignments. My goal each week is to get better as the game goes on, and execute my assignments to perfection and shake off my mistakes."
Speaking of goals, what are yours for life once you leave UW?
Conniff: "I am actually interested in joining the fire department somewhere. I may volunteer somewhere for a year. I am not going to sit behind a desk that is for sure. I have wanted to become a fire fighter the last few years. That is what I plan to do, get my degree in society and justice and move on."
What is it about being a firefighter than draws you to it?
Conniff: "It is something that would be a good transition for me. I think it would be going from one extreme to another. To try and match the excitement of playing in front of 70,000 people, I would be putting out fires and helping out people. I think that would be pretty exciting as well."
Have you given any thought to what your life will be like next semester when you don't have football occupying all of your time, not having to work out all the time and trying to prepare for the next season
Conniff: "That is going to be the biggest change and it is coming up soon. I might take a week off or something. I won't have to run or whatever (he laughs). But seriously, academics are really important to me right now. I have come this far and I am excited to be done that is for sure, but the only way to get done is to go and try to be successful."
Have you ever played any other position than fullback?
Conniff: "I have played fullback my whole life, but I also played linebacker in high school because we could play both ways." [Having played linebacker, does that help you be a better fullback since you know what they are thinking?] Maybe a little bit. They are two completely different positions other than the fact that you have a similar job. After playing this long, you get used to the way a linebacker comes at you. A lot of them do it a different way than I did. But I guess it helps."
Is there another position you wish you could play besides fullback?
Conniff: "Quarterback. You get to be a superstar, you get all of the fame, the women... but other than that, there isn't another position I would like to play. Fullback is what I was built to be, but if I had the ability. I would play quarterback."
Having played with Marques (Tuiasosopo) for so long, including high school, and admiring the quarterback position like you do, did you ever look over and wish you could be him?
Conniff: "He does it so well, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to do it nearly as good. I would probably just go out there and embarrass myself. I always felt comfortable where I was at (at fullback). It was always fun being able to watch him. The only thing I wish I could have is the fame. The fame is nice. He gets a lot of attention, which is pretty fun. Actually, I am glad I am not him and I just get to sit back and watch because it must get annoying sometimes. I am not complaining whatsoever though."
A football team is sometimes referred to as being like a family. You said it yourself talking about Curtis. Playing with these guys as long as you have, is there that sense of family that you would do things for them that you normally wouldn't do for other people?
Conniff: "You bet, with the time that we have spent together. I remember coming in here with Kyle Benn, Derrell Daniels, Marques, and all of these guys. This part of our lives is such a turning point for us. The time we spend together is unbelievable, the way we get to know each other. We go through extremely hard things together like a family would. I think it is like a giant family and I think the team's success reflects on how well the family is operating and getting along. It awesome to know that about your fellow teammates."
Tell me about your real family. Playing football, though you are not far from home, you obviously don't get to see your family everyday, with the time constraints.
Conniff: "I don't see my family very much. My mom and I talk on the phone every night. She calls every night at least. We are pretty close. My sister goes to ASU in Arizona and my other sister is married and lives in Los Angeles, so we are spread all over the place. But we are definitely a good family. It is nice to know they are around. [Did your sister in Arizona get to go the game down there?] She was there, my whole family was there, my grandma, my grandpa, everybody, but I wasn't able to go because of my knee. I was here in Seattle, but they were calling me up the whole time."
What is like for you, being from the area and growing up around Husky football, to suit up in purple and gold?
Conniff: "It is really a dream come true. I've had a few goldfish named Husky. I have come to games my whole life. I have a picture of myself next to the stadium where it is not even built yet, when one side wasn't even up yet. I am very familiar with it, so it is like a dream come true. [Is that why you came to Washington?] I didn't take any other trips. As soon as I was offered a scholarship I took it. I was one of the first ones to accept it in my year."
Your father and grandfather both played football for Army. Was there any pressure for you to follow in their footsteps?
Conniff: "Not at all. They went their route and they knew I had my own way. They knew I wanted to be a Husky all along and they were probably just happy that I was going to college and they didn't have to pay for it."
How do you get pumped up for a game? Do you visualize what you want to do, listen to music, etc?
Conniff: "It is always exciting. You play the game over and over in your head before the game and it just excites you. The anticipation, the curiosity if you are going to win or lose, the crowd, everything, it all plays a part in the excitement. It doesn't take much to get excited. I guess anybody could get excited in front of all those people."
When you go on the road, it is a totally different type of crowd. It is not the more than 70,000 fans you have at home rooting for you. How do you prepare for that?
Conniff: "Personally, I enjoy away games better than home games. It is so quiet (at home games) when our offense is out there. Our home stadium is awesome for the defense. I am sure the defense wouldn't have it any other way, but (on the road) once you are out there and everybody is bickering at you it is fun to prove them wrong. To hear what people have to say, I think it is fun. The atmosphere is just what college football is all about. I have heard some crazy things, it kind of makes you chuckle a little bit, but it all part of the experience."
Have you seen the movie "Remember the Titans"? Do you ever think about things like that on the field, doing something to inspire other people and make an impact?
Conniff: "I do (think about that) a little bit. With that movie, the thing for me was the story line, not so much the football aspect of it. The story of the African Americans and the whites, how they bonded together despite their differences. I saw a lot of similarities in myself first getting here as the players did in that movie. I was able to relate to that movie a lot. I think that is why I enjoyed it so much. It was a good movie. I think our team could have reflected a lot after that movie."
What do you mean that you saw similarities between the movie and when you first came to UW?
Conniff: "It is like us. We have people coming here from all walks of life. When you get here, you get kind of shoved together and you don't really know each other. You have questions and you are curious about all kinds of things. It seems like that is how the movie was to a "T" and we are so similar to it."
Is that your favorite movie or do you have a different one?
Conniff: "I have a lot of favorite movies. Marques and I go down and get movies all the time. I like all kinds of movies. "Tombstone" is one of my favorites. It is a good movie, we just watched it last night and remembered how good it was. I like "Braveheart" too, all of those intense, guy movies. That is what we go for. I am pretty typical.[Do you ever have to watch "girl movies", though?] I do. My mom and I go to the movies sometimes and I can't take her to go see "Gladiator" or something like that. I do have to watch them sometimes and they are not too bad."
Do you stick to one genre of music or are you pretty diverse with that?
Conniff: "If you went and turned on my car radio right now, it would be on country. I am a country guy, but I will also flip it over to KUBE once in a while and get some beats in me. I am a well-rounded music guy. I enjoy everything. My CD collection has a little bit of everything in it. I am going to go buy Pennywise this week. Elliot (Silvers) let me listen to Pennywise on the way home and I remembered how much I liked it. The last CD I think I bought was Tim McGraw."
I walked by the weight room one day and a bunch of football players were in there listening to Dixie Chicks. Can you comment on that?
Conniff: Hey, that is a big-time CD on our team. You would be surprised. I love it. I have it. I love the Dixie Chicks."
What is your favorite color?
Conniff: "Navy blue. I have always liked navy blue. It goes with everything. You can wear anything with navy blue. [How do you feel about purple?] Anything purple other than on our football stuff is kind of womanly, feminine. It seems to work okay for football though."
Do you watch other football games on TV? Do you watch the media coverage of the Huskies as well?
Conniff: "Every week, I watch them. It is not going to change the way I play. I have a job to do and I am going to go do it my best. Constructive criticism is all right, it is a part of it. I am used to it. It is weird though, you always remember being a freshman and taking it personally, but you learn. [Is that what you are teaching the younger guys?] No. They have to learn their own way. That is one of those things you learn on your own. "
What are you doing to try and fill your shoes when you are gone?
Conniff: "Right now my job is to be a senior and being a senior means you have an automatic leadership role. The way I go out and lead people is not so much my words but my actions and what I do on the field, mostly in practice. I try to get to know (the younger guys) and become friends with them so when I am watching them four years down the line when they are seniors, I can talk about the times we had when we were together. When I was freshman I didn't meet too many seniors and I don't want that to happen to any of our freshmen. I like our freshmen."
You played as a true freshman and now guys like Rich Alexis and others are playing for the Huskies as true freshmen. Do you have any thoughts on that issue? Should true freshmen be out there playing at this level?
Conniff: "I had nowhere near the ability that Rich Alexis has. I was kind of thrown into the mix and learned the hard way most of my freshman year. It was a great experience, and it was an awesome part of my life. I think I am where I am because of that. It is not for everybody, but for those certain cases definitely. For instance, the guys we have out here playing, I think it will be a positive for them. I think if they are there because they deserve to be there, that is all that needs to be said. Then there are guys who are red-shirting and that will be the best thing that can happen to them. It all depends."
Now to some personal things. What would you want on the table if your mom was making you a home cooked meal?
Conniff: "She knows that I would like a major meat, some roast or ribs, the popular stuff. I am a big fan of that, cooked medium rare of course. And she has these great twice-baked potatoes. She mashes them up and she knows she has a great meal. Those would definitely be there. She is not the greatest cook and she knows it , but she does cook particular things very well, like her twice-baked potatoes and her roasts."
What is your favorite food?
Conniff: "Seafood. Calamari would have to be my favorite food."
This is for our web site. Are you a big fan of the Internet?
Conniff: "I never get on the web. I am not a computer guy. I will probably never see this story. I check my email about once a month."
Your 23rd birthday was last Wednesday (Oct. 25), how was that?
Conniff: "It was a good birthday. I like quiet birthdays. I don't like all the attention of a birthday. I have never been a big fan of it. My mom came over, we had some cake and that was about it. [Didn't the guys on the football team take you to dinner on your birthday?] Dinner with the guys is always fun, we do that every week. We always head out somewhere to eat. My birthday just happened to fall at the right time. [Did they sing to you?] No. If they had, I would have got up and walked out. That is not my style."
In the 2000 football media guide you had long hair. Now you have almost none. What happened to the hair?
Conniff: "It was just a thing I had to do once. I wanted to have long hair and I wanted to have a picture of me with long hair and I did, but I will never have long hair again. I grew it for a year and three months or so. It was 12 inches long, so it was a pretty drastic change when I cut it. The reason I cut it was because it was hot one day and I had my window down and my hair was flying in my face and driving me crazy, so I went home, turned on the clippers and mowed it off. I picked it up, put it all together in my hand and was thinking "Good riddance." It felt so good to have short hair again. I had had short hair my whole life. It was good to be back, definitely."
How would you describe yourself to people who don't know you?
Conniff: "I don't know. I have never thought of myself like that. Friendly, I will just say friendly. I will be friendly to you. I like meeting new people. [You can't exactly be that way on the football field though.] You can in a way. There is nothing friendly about smashing into a guy, but once the play is over, you can go two routes, you can talk trash or you can be nice to the guy. You can be friendly and say "Nice play," and just be cool with the guy. I like to be nice to the guy. It is frustrating when someone is nice to you. I remember in high school, I made a tackle on this guy and the guy got up and said "Hey man, that was a nice play. That was a good hit." It was more frustrating to hear that and him popping right up than it was to hear trash talk. I learned from that experience, copied it and that is what I try to do."
Is is hard for you to help a guy up off the field who just tackled you?
Conniff: "You should see me, after every play, the first thing I do is reach an arm up, I don't care who it is that helps me up. [What if he is the one still on the ground?] I would love to help him up. We both have a job to do, we are both playing a game. It is not life or death. You are competing but you should still take the time to help someone up. I have never had a problem with that."