Probably the first thing someone notices about Clarkdale senior Conner Alsobrooks is the hair that extends past his shoulders.
Unless you’re watching him play a football game, with a helmet covering his head. Then it’s Alsobrooks’ knowledge of the game and how he utilizes it that will stand out to any observer who’s at least somewhat familiar with the sport.
“He’s definitely the most football-smart kid on the team,” Clarkdale head coach Jason Soules said. “What he lacks in physical size, he makes up for in intellect. He’s been our starting mike linebacker since he was a freshman. He makes all the calls on defense, he knows every position, he’s our emergency quarterback and he’s been a really good leader for us. We’re really glad we have him, and when he leaves here we’re going to have a lot to replace.”
That knowledge makes him a coach on the field for the Bulldogs, and it’s something that’s come with countless hours of studying the game. It’s why the team will once again lean heavily on him this fall to make sure everyone knows their assignment on defense.
“I always watched football as a kid growing up and played football in the backyard, and when I started high school, it started getting more serious with studying film, watching tape and going over what we do in these situations and those situations and knowing where everybody has to go and what my job is,” Alsobrooks said. “It just stuck.”
Alsobrooks estimated he spends more time watching film than he does doing physical activities during any week of football season.
“I’ll probably spend four hours a day watching film, at least,” Alsobrooks said. “Then I’ll sit there and go over our defensive calls for the week and go over (the opponent’s) formations and see what their tendencies are, like if a guy likes to pull or sit his foot back, or if this tackle is a little bit tighter if he blocks down. It’s just small stuff like that.”
As a defensive leader, it’s Alsobrooks’ job to be dedicated to film study, but he’s also developed a genuine enjoyment for it.
“I love playing football,” Alsobrooks said. “I’ve played it all my life, and I couldn’t imagine not playing football.”
Soules said he trusts Alsobrooks to the point where he doesn’t think the team would miss a beat if Alsobrooks had to act as an emergency defensive coordinator.
“If something ever happened and I couldn’t call the defense, I’d feel comfortable with him doing it,” Soules said. “That’s odd to say about a player, but he makes sure everyone is lined up correctly, and he knows what everyone does. He’s definitely the central nervous system of our defense.”
Fellow senior Gavin Moffett said he and his teammates feed off Alsobrooks’ knowledge.
“He’s the smartest guy on the field, there’s no doubt about that,” Moffett said. “Obviously, you have Coach (Soules), but he’s almost as important as the coach, because Coach isn’t out there with you, so if you’re struggling or have a question, he’s always the guy to go to, and he always has the answer.”
Of course, having long hair brings its fair amount of ribbing by his teammates, but Alsobrooks said he’s grown it out since his freshman year and can take the jokes that come with it.
“I’ve trimmed it here and there, but it’s just stuck with me for a while,” Alsobrooks said. “It’s kind of been my own thing. I guess you can say that my brothers did it before me, and now I’m doing it. They call me a lot of different things, but I just take it as a joke.”
Moffett said no one has been able to convince Alsobrooks to cut his hair, and he doesn’t expect that to change this fall.
“I think pretty much everybody has told him at least once he should cut it,” Moffett said.
Soules doesn’t mind it.
“I don’t have a problem with some individuality,” Soules said. “He’s a great kid, makes good grades, is always here on time and has been a leader. He does every single thing we’ve asked him to do, so long hair don’t care as far as I’m concerned.”
High school football may be over for Alsobrooks after this fall, but with so much football knowledge he hasn’t ruled out using what he knows as a coach later on down the road.
“Maybe one day,” Alsobrooks said with a chuckle. “Maybe.”