Former Arizona quarterback John Conner no longer answer of trivia questionby Javier Morales on Apr. 30, 2012, under Sports
Javier Morales took first place in the 2010 Arizona Press Club’s Metro Sports Reporting category. For a different look at University of Arizona sports, check out Javier’s unique Web site: WILDABOUTAZCATS.net
For 27 years, John Conner was the answer to a dubious trivia question pertaining to Arizona football: Who was the last Wildcat quarterback to be drafted by an NFL team?
Conner no longer is the answer of being the last UA quarterback drafted in the NFL — an almost three-decade drought — after this year’s draft. Former Wildcat quarterback Nick Foles was drafted Friday in the third round by Philadelphia, the 88th pick overall. Conner was the previous UA quarterback taken in the 1985 draft by Seattle in the 10th round.
“(I am) pretty surprised and it’s pretty funny actually,” Conner told me. “For a Pac-10 team to go so long without a quarterback drafted does not look very good, especially in a quarterback-centric league.”
The Pac-10, converted to the Pac-12 last year when Utah and Colorado joined the league, had 82 quarterbacks drafted in the last 25 years, including 18 from USC, according to Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen.
Conner ironically was essentially a backup for most of his UA career. He played behind Tom Tunnicliffe and shared time with Alfred Jenkins. He was slated to be the UA’s starter as a senior in 1984, but he suffered a knee injury in the season opener against Fresno State.
He missed most of the rest of the season. He played in only three other games and completed only 12 passes in 23 attempts for 197 yards. Seattle still chose him in the 10th round because the Seahawks liked his arm strength and mobility during individual workouts before the draft.
Had Conner not suffered the injury against Fresno State, who knows? Jenkins wound up leading the Pac-10 in passing yardage that season with 2,002 yards.
Despite the injury setback as senior, Conner is thankful for his Arizona experience.
“Those were fun years,” he said. “I learned a lot, worked hard and grew up a ton. The school, football program and friends were the best.”
Conner went to the Seahawks’ camp as a rookie with difficult odds. Veterans Dave Krieg and Jim Zorn were on the roster. Conner was waived during the 1985 preseason. He tried a year later with the Patriots but was released without playing in a regular-season game.
He managed to find success, however, as a family man and international health insurance broker for more than 20 years. He and his wife Kelly have three kids — JC, Daryl and MacLean — and they live near beautiful wine country in Sacramento.
Conner, who turns 51 on May 9, does not get to frequent Arizona football games but he remains a fan and keeps tabs on the program.
“I keep a close eye on the Cats from afar and think Foles has great size, great accuracy, a good arm, and fair feet,” Conner said. “If in the right program, he’ll do fine.”