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Confidence Rebuilt, Buckeye Cornerback Gareon Conley Emerges as Starter
By Tony Gerdeman
Gareon Conley has used last year's MSU game as motivation.
Photo by Jim Davidson

COLUMBUS — Cornerbacks are supposed to have short memories, quickly forgetting about any particular play that doesn't go in their favor. It's a different way to live, but one that generally leaves them feeling pretty good about themselves.

Sometimes, however, the memories are too powerful to simply be forgotten. That was the case with Buckeye cornerback Gareon Conley in last year's game against Michigan State.

On the road at night in East Lansing, the redshirt freshman Conley was asked to step in for starter Eli Apple, who was nursing a hamstring injury. Things did not go as planned for the Buckeyes.

After a run on first down on MSU's first possession, the Spartans realized that Apple was out and Conley was in, so on second down they went after him deep, and completed a 44-yard pass from Connor Cook to Keith Mumphery.

Then two plays later, Cook found Mumphery again, this time on the sideline. Conley was there for the tackle, but Mumphery threw him to the ground and then ran in for the touchdown.

On MSU's next possession, they immediately ran the ball to Conley's side, picking up 17 yards because Conley had lost leverage. Apple was then sent into the game and any short-term memory that Conley was hoping to have was long forgotten.

In the biggest game of the season to that point, Conley was asked to step in and help the defense, and he didn't get the job done. Something like that can stick with a player for quite a while, cornerback or not.

"Last year I came in against Michigan State and messed up a couple of plays and that just brought me down," Conley said this spring. "I just didn’t have as much confidence and belief in myself."

Getting over that Michigan State game wasn't something that just happened, and it wasn't something that Conley had to do on his own. His teammates have been there for him since that entire sequence went down, and he credits those around him with getting him over the events of that game.

"Teammates," he said. "My team and my coaches. When I came to the sideline nobody complained or nothing. Everybody was lifting me up the whole time. That just made me have faith in my teammates and myself.

"Just going out practicing every day and knowing that those plays are behind me and you have to play the next play, every play. You’re not going to win every play. Nobody is perfect, so you’ve just got to know that you have to play the next play. Nobody likes getting beat, so you beat yourself up. But you’ve just got to know that you have to build upon that. You have to use that as motivation and know that you’ve got to play the next play."

Motivation is exactly what the memories of the Michigan State game became for him. People don't like to have their worst moments brought up repeatedly, but when they are, it can be one hell of a motivator.

Read more on Page 2
Player profiles relevant to story:
8 - Conley, Gareon | Coach - Coombs, Kerry
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