The Can’t Miss Kid
Katy Taylor OL Hayden Conner is the “Next Big Thing”
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!