The Can’t Miss Kid

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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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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