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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Boston's two grand slams in the first two innings were too much for Houston to overcome in ALCS Game 2. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a win in ALCS Game 1 that had the prototypical fingerprints of this Astros team all over it, Houston returned to Minute Maid Park on Saturday, hoping to take a dominant 2-0 series lead if they could grab another victory. The Red Sox dashed those hopes very early, though, scoring eight runs across the first two innings to build the lead they would hold on to even the series.

Final Score: Boston 9, Astros 5

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 1-1

Winning Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Losing Pitcher: Luis Garcia

Houston met with disaster to start Game 2

You couldn't have drawn up a much better start for the Red Sox or a worse one for the Astros in Saturday's ALCS Game 2. Luis Garcia met early disaster in the top of the first inning, allowing a leadoff double, then got two outs while issuing two walks to load the bases. That brought up Boston's designated hitter, J.D. Martinez, to the plate, and he delivered a crushing blow to Houston, launching a grand slam to put the Red Sox up 4-0 before Houston could even get to the plate.

After a scoreless bottom of the inning by his offense, things got worse for Garcia in the top of the second, as after issuing a four-pitch walk to start the frame, he would become the center of a meeting at the mound with trainers, ultimately leaving the game with an injury. Houston opted to bring in Jake Odorizzi for the emergency call to the bullpen, but things did not start well for him either. He would put two of his own batters on base with two singles, then gave up the second grand slam in as many innings, this one to Rafael Devers to double Boston's lead to 8-0, doubling down on Houston's disastrous start to the game.

Odorizzi rebounded with a 1-2-3 third, but with one out in the top of the fourth allowed a solo homer to Kiké Hernández, his third homer of the series so far. He would still get the job done of eating up a few innings, finishing the fourth, and retiring Boston in order in the fifth, giving Houston just four more innings to cover with the rest of their relievers.

Astros get a few runs back

Over that span, Houston did trim the lead by three runs, getting an RBI double by Kyle Tucker and a two-RBI single by Yuli Gurriel in the bottom of the fourth, making it a six-run game at 9-3. Their next reliever was Blake Taylor in the top of the sixth, and he would keep the score where it stood by sitting down the three batters he faced that frame.

The Astros threatened again in the bottom of the sixth, getting two singles to put two aboard, but would come out empty, sending the game on to the seventh, where Taylor would remain on the mound. He faced three more batters, getting two out while allowing a single before Yimi Garcia would come in to get the third out.

Red Sox even the series as it shifts to Boston

Garcia returned in the top of the eighth, getting through that inning despite a walk and hit by pitch, stranding both runners. Boston's bullpen kept Houston from getting any closer in the bottom of the eighth, then Ryne Stanek came in for the Astros in the top of the ninth. Stanek allowed a leadoff double, but with a groundout and double play, held the score at 9-3. Yuli Gurriel and Jason Castro did their part to keep the Astros alive in the bottom of the ninth, each hitting solo homers to make it 9-5, but that's as close as they'd come, dropping Game 2 to tie the series at one game apiece.

Up Next: The ALCS now moves to Boston for the next three games after a day off on Sunday, with Game 3 on Monday at 7:08 PM Central. While the Astros have named Jose Urquidy as their starter, the Red Sox have not yet determined theirs.

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