Coney turning heads at Storrs

Former Naugatuck High School wide receiver Bryan Coney has caught the eye of the coaching staff at UConn as a preferred walk-on in his first year in the program. –RA ARCHIVE
Former Naugatuck High School wide receiver Bryan Coney has caught the eye of the coaching staff at UConn as a preferred walk-on in his first year in the program. –RA ARCHIVE

STORRS — Just over a year ago Bryan Coney played his final high school football game of his career. The Naugatuck High School graduate has come a long way since then.

Since signing as a preferred walk-on with the University of Connecticut early in 2015, the wide receiver has worked his way up to the second-team offense for the Huskies, and the coaching staff has taken notice.

UConn head coach Bob Diaco says that Coney has found himself a role for the start of the 2016 season.

“[Coney] will be a player next year who, if he continues to develop the way he has been developing, will have some role for sure,” stated Diaco when talking about the maturation of multiple freshman receivers.

Coney is redshirting this season, which means the former Naugy star will still have four years of eligibility starting next season. He started this season on the scout team in practices but has gradually worked his way on to the second-team offense. Coney said his quick progression is because of his determination to work hard and not disappoint his head coach.

“I felt like all of my hard work has started to pay off and felt like it was my responsibility to not let him (Diaco) down,” Coney said. “I know nothing is guaranteed at this level and if I want to prove him right then I have to keep working and progressing.”

Coney also credited the support from multiple groups of people, especially his parents, for the rapid ascension.

“My parents were always on my side and always kept my head on track whenever I felt homesick,” Coney said. “They made sure I knew what I was doing this for.”

The exponential improvement as a wide receiver began in Coney’s junior year at NHS.  After not starting his sophomore year at receiver, Coney started to make his name known with 29 receptions for 1,000 and 13 touchdowns.  His success continued in his All-State 2014 campaign where his stats continued to improve, including 52 receptions, 1,171 yards and 20 touchdowns.  He needed just those two seasons to set the career Naugatuck record in those three categories.

Jason Bradley, the All-State quarterback who threw all of those touchdowns to Coney, isn’t surprised to see his go-to target in 2014 getting noticed so quickly in Storrs.

“I am not surprised,” Bradley said. “Bryan has always been a hard worker and consistent with his work ethic. I knew it was a matter of time before he saw the field and once he gets his opportunity, he will make a strong impact.”

Now, Coney will help the Huskies prepare for their first bowl game since 2011. UConn (6-6) will play Marshall (9-3) in the St. Petersburg Bowl in Florida Dec. 26.

This season also marked the first time since 2011 that UConn finished the regular season with a record of .500 or better. Coney said he’s embracing the fact that has just entered a program that is on the rise.

“It makes me proud to be a Husky,” Coney said. “I believe in my teammates and our coaches.  We have one more game left this season against a great football team in Marshall, so we’re focused on that but the future is looking bright.”

The Republican-American contributed to this article.