The Can’t Miss Kid

Katy Taylor OL Hayden Conner is the “Next Big Thing”

Katy Taylor OL Hayden Conner is the “Next Big Thing”
Katy Taylor’s Hayden Conner is one of Houston’s top prospects in the Class of 2021 Vype

The great thing about high school football is that there is always a “Next Big Thing.”

St. Pius X quarterback Grant Gunnell stole the headlines two years ago as an emerging sophomore, while North Shore running back Zach Evans became a household name as the top sophomore prospect for the Class of 2020.

So who is next?

Katy Taylor big-man Hayden Conner is the top player in Houston for the Class of 2021. The 6-foot-6, 295-pound offensive tackle is college-ready right now.

“During my eighth-grade year, I took a visit to Miami University,” Conner said. “I had no expectations and they offered me. It was the coolest thing ever. Then came Nebraska and Tulane and from there it just blew up.”

It hasn’t stopped since, totaling double-digit offers, including one from Texas A&M.

This was the expectation all along.

Conner’s dad played at Sam Houston and his grandfathers played at the University of Houston and UTEP, respectively. He has a pair of cousins who played at Baylor and TCU.

“The first time I played, I fell in love with the sport,” Conner said. “I could sense in the sixth grade that I was going to have a life in football.”

While starting on varsity as a freshman and earning all-district, honorable- mention honors, the honor-roll student has a few other passions.

“The basketball coaches kept me with my class this year because we were pretty set with big- men,” Conner laughs. “But I do plan on making a big contribution for our basketball program in the future.

“I pretty serious about video games like Overwatch and Fortnite. I’m also looking to find a high school robotics team. Our school doesn’t have one.”

Conner helped lead one of the most lethal running attacks in the city with his line-mates Andrew Coker (6-foot-9 junior) and Bryce Foster (6-foot-4, 290-pounds), another super freshman. All three have offers from virtually every major Division I program.

“My first varsity season is not really what I expected,” Conner said. “We had Hurricane Harvey, our coach being dismissed and our leader Max Wright (Texas A&M signee) going out with a season-ending injury. We just had to stay focused. Max taught me so much and I owe a lot of my success to him because of what type of teammate he was.

“Now, I like being in a leadership role and being there for my teammates. I love JJ Watt and he’s been my idol since he’s been in the NFL. I really try and be like him on and off the field from being a good teammate and good person.”

The recruiting process is starting to heat up but Conner has more important things on his plate.

“I have just started driver’s education, so that has me really busy right now,” Conner said. “But on the recruiting front, I have five schools in mind and the order moves around. I think about my future all the time, and honestly, education is the most important part.”

He will do the rounds of the Nike Opening, Rivals Three-Stripe Camp and likely the Under Armour Combine, but school visits will also fill his summer. It’s a tremendous position to be in.

“My parents always tell me to stay humble,” Conner said. “They feel the same way as me, just blessed that I’m getting recruited by these major programs.”

Conner has a split family and his parents live in two different school zones, so he had the choice to either go to super-power Katy or Katy Taylor.

“I’ve always wanted to come to Katy Taylor and be a part of something special,” Conner said. “We want to be the team that takes down Katy at some point.”

Enter new coach Chad Simmons, who has been at Cinco Ranch for 18 seasons as the defensive coordinator. Simmons is the new boss at Katy Taylor and there is a culture change in motion.

“I thought it was going to be a little bumpy with a new coach, but it’s been really smooth,” Conner said. “There is a new energy and things are being taken about 10 times more seriously. The intensity is what we have needed.”

This article appears in the March Issue of VYPE Magazine. Pick up your copy at any one of our locations today!

 

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The Astros are back in action Friday night against Seattle. Composite Getty Image.

The Astros were a season low 12 games under .500 (12-24) on May 8th but were able to turn things around and entered the All-Star break with a respectable 50-46 record.

The turnaround can be attributed to better performances on the field by a multitude of players, but there are still things that could be improved to ensure a successful second half of the season.

As it currently stands, Houston is only one game behind the Seattle Mariners in the American League West division race, and the Astros should have key players returning from injury to further bolster their playoff ambitions.

The return of the King

Kyle Tucker has been on the injured list with a shin contusion for six weeks now, and looks to return in the near future.

The Astros have done surprisingly well without their three-time All-Star outfielder thanks to contributions from guys like Joey Loperfido, Jake Meyers and Marcio Dubon in the outfield. Plus, Jose Altuve, Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman, Yanier Diaz and Jeremy Pena carrying the offense while King Tuck is away.

Before getting hurt, the 27-year-old was hitting .266/.395/.584 through 60 games. Houston already has one of the best offenses in baseball, and adding Tucker back would give the Astros another high-quality bat to further bolster their lineup.

The latest update is Tucker has been playing catch and could start a rehab assignment soon if all goes well.

Fix the rotation

Starting pitching has been a major issue this season due to a multitude of injuries.

Cristian Javier, Jose Urquidy and J.P. France have all been lost for the year with various surgeries and guys like Justin Verlander and Luis Garcia are trying to work their way back from their injured list stints.

Garcia was recently pulled from his rehab assignment and won’t pitch again until he is ready. Meanwhile, Verlander could be closer to his return and is throwing bullpen sessions as of July 14. Getting both of these pitchers back at some point this season will be a huge boost to this roster.

The current Astros’ rotation consists of Framber Valdez, Ronel Blanco, Hunter Brown, Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss. Although not a bad rotation by any means, the starting pitching depth is getting pretty thin and Houston can ill afford another injury to their staff.

Astros general manager Dana Brown has been vocal about his desire to add starting pitching, and could have some options heading into the trade deadline. Players like Jack Flaherty, Garrett Crochet or Yusei Kikuchi, just to name a few, could be low risk high reward pitchers the Astros could acquire to add depth to their rotation.

Another option would be to call up A.J. Blubaugh from Sugar Land. The 24-year-old has a 6-2 record with a 3.46 ERA in 71.1 innings pitched this season for the Space Cowboys and could be a necessary depth piece to add to the rotation.

Play Astros baseball

The Astros have been playing better baseball as of late and have won 18 of their last 23 games. With players like Kyle Tucker and Justin Verlander potentially returning soon, there is reason to believe Houston can make the playoffs for the 8th consecutive season.

The 'Stros will try to take sole possession of first place in their division from the Mariners when the two teams meet for three games at T-Mobile Park starting on Friday night.

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