Nov. 5, 2003
By Ron Vaccaro '04
In the classroom, Bulldog center Will Conroy's outgoing nature and eagerness to share his often bold, yet always informed opinions represents the lofty Yale ideals of stimulating discussion and learning from one's peers. On the radio during his weekly sports talk show, it makes for the hardest-hitting analysis on campus. And on the gridiron, Conroy's relentless pursuit of excellence, and his willingness to steer others in that direction, make him the exemplar of leadership.
Conroy's teammates describe him as the "captain" of the offensive line, a distinction attributable partly to the responsibilities of the position but, in this case, more as a result of the person snapping the football.
"In terms of leadership, there is no one more important on the offensive line," said quarterback Alvin Cowan '04, the Eli captain. "Will is the glue that seems to hold the whole thing together."
As the center, Conroy is responsible for making all of the calls for pass blocking schemes, a determination that is made at the line, and one that he has, by all accounts handled superbly so far.
But his contribution to the team extends far beyond making the correct blocking determinations.
"Whenever I want to do something better, I'll watch Will and see what he is doing," said linemate and potential pro prospect Rory Hennessey '05. "He is always doing something 110% and he is always doing the right thing."
That Conroy initially entered the Yale program as a linebacker without the wildest notion of ever considering playing on the offensive line makes his story all the more significant. At the end of his freshman year, faced with the reality that he would not play at linebacker, Conroy was told by head coach Jack Siedlecki that he could be an impact player on the offensive line. While that has certainly come to fruition, more notable is the effect Conroy's hard work to make the transition had on his peers, especially the seniors, who have witnessed the entire process.
"He worked very hard at the transition, and now he is a starter," Cowan said. "I think that is really where guys can look to him as a leader, realizing that he will get back up after he is knocked down. You can always trust him to be doing what he's supposed to be doing, whether or not someone is watching."
For Conroy, once presented with the situation of moving to the o-line, there was no doubt what he had to do.
"It was a complete function of whether or not I was going to play," the 6'2, 275 lb. Conroy said. "That's what matters, and, 50 pounds later, here I am."
One of the more remarkable aspects of Conroy's complete dedication to the football team is the extent of his commitments off the field.
As a freshman in the first weeks of school, Conroy was walking to the library and saw a sign on a campus bulletin board that caught his attention. The poster was from the WYBC sports department, which was seeking students interested in sports-casting.
"I saw that, and I immediately knew that was something I had to do," Conroy said. "I knew that I was such a big sports fan that I would be at most of the games anyway, and I had always loved public speaking. Why not put the two together?"
Exhibiting similar dedication as he has to the football team to the radio station, Conroy is now the co-sports director and the lead game analyst on Yale hockey broadcasts, a position he has held for the past two seasons, much to the delight of WYBC's listeners who appreciate his insightful and entertaining commentary. This fall Conroy added an additional responsibility to his radio involvement. Monday nights - the only day of the week without a football practice, game, or meeting, Conroy co-hosts "Makin' It Talk", a sports commentary show which covers a wide range of topics from Yale to national sports. As with football, the most impressive part of Conroy's radio involvement is that he is fully prepared for every broadcast.
"There is a lot of responsibility that goes along with being involved with WYBC," Conroy said. "But I've improved my speaking ability quite drastically, and that is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life."
With such extensive football and broadcasting commitments, in addition to working in the Sports Publicity office, it seems hard to believe that the political science major could have a 3.53 grade point average, but, by now you have probably already realized that Conroy is not going to allow himself to under-achieve in any endeavor he pursues. His academic success landed him an internship at Fox News this past summer, working for "On the Record" with Greta Van Susteren. Conroy helped produce, write and edit segments for the show, and the highlight of his summer was meeting political figures such as Henry Kissinger as well as working in a fast-paced, high pressure environment on a daily basis.
"Being a true student-athlete means a lot to me," Conroy said. "Being diverse is very important to me. My greatest fear is to be pigeon-holed into one category and be described as one thing only. Even when I was very young this was very important to me."
Conroy - who was a five-sport athlete in high school at Thayer Academy - is adamant that competing in varsity athletics is not a detriment to his studies and firmly believes in the educational merits of football or any other extracurricular activity.
"Football has given me a tremendous sense of discipline," Conroy said. "The structure and commitment needed to succeed in football and everything else has taught me tremendous life lessons. The game forces you to stay focused on long term goals. You have to prepare in February and March so you are ready to win games in November."
Just as Conroy's on-field preparation has set the bar for his teammates, so too have his extensive off-field commitments caught the attention and admiration of the rest of the team.
"Will is respected by everybody because he does so much here at Yale," said wide receiver Ralph Plumb '05. "Knowing him, I am sure that he has had the same impact at WYBC and Fox News as he has on the team. He sets a tremendous example."
For Conroy, who has already submitted early decision law school applications to Georgetown and the University of Virginia and is working on seven or eight others, the most rewarding part of each of his extracurricular experiences has been the friendships formed, no doubt a sentiment echoed by those fortunate enough to know him.
"Will does anything for you when you need help," Hennessey said. "That's just the type of person he is."
No doubt those friendships will last well beyond the conclusion of Conroy's football career, which after today's game, consists only of the Princeton and Harvard games. Though the Bulldogs no longer control their own destiny in their hopes for an Ivy League title, Conroy and company know they still have one last chance to make their dream real, but it will require that Yale run the tables. With leadership from the likes of Conroy and all of the other seniors, no one is counting the Bulldogs out.
But regardless of what Elis' final win-loss record says this year, Conroy is already a winner on life's playing field. And, for one of Yale's finest student-athletes, while there is no telling what the future holds, it is a pretty safe bet that with Conroy's loyalty, desire and hard work, he's destined to be a leader in whatever field, or fields, he chooses.