College football Barlow’s Mignone flourishing at right tackle for Central Connecticut
Central Connecticut football coach Pete Rossomondo is a firm believer in an offensive line being the identity of a team.
He likely couldn’t ask for a better example than his blossoming right tackle.
Barlow graduate Connor Mignone is making waves in a short amount of time for the Blue Devils, who had one of the stronger offensive lines in the entire FCS last year, rushing for 27 touchdowns, a top-20 total in the nation.
“It’s the most important thing,” Rossomondo said. “We’ve got 12 to 13 guys guys in that room that are all great kids and work well together. ... (Mignone) has made an impact from the day he’s walked into the door; he’s probably one of the hardest workers I’ve ever coached.”
The 6-foot-4, 310-pound Mignone earned just about every accolade possible during his dominant campaign. The highlight of which came when he named first-team FCS Freshman All-American by Phil Steele.
“I think it was just hard work,” said Mignone, who was named first team All-NEC last season and is on the third team preseason All-American by FCS Insider. “I give all the credit to my coaches, our strength coach and the guys next to me. It was a total shock to get All-American.”
This came after being redshirted as a freshman just two games into the 2016 season, when the Blue Devils went 2-9. Mignone — who left Barlow at 250 pounds — worked in the weight room to eclipse the 300-pound mark in time for the 2017 season.
A learning curve was still at hand, though. Pass blocking was somewhat of a foreign concept for Mignone before arriving on campus. Being an offensive lineman at Barlow meant mauling defensive lineman to pave way for running backs in the triple option one play after another. Mignone started for three seasons at Barlow, earning first team All-SWC his junior and senior years.
“Obviously he’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached,” Barlow coach Rob Tynan said. “Honestly he’s one of those special kids with the hard work dedication; as an old offensive lineman, it’s a craft and they don’t get enough credit. He’s worked on his craft on and off the field.”
Mignone was thrown right into the fire for his first career start. The lone opponent on the schedule that plays in the FBS, Syracuse dominated the Blue Devils as Mignone got acclimated to the speed of the college game.
“That was insane,” Mignone recalled. “The emotions were overwhelming and the first plays took a little adjusting. I was nervous before the game; you’re in awe before that first play.”
Mignone — who was back at Barlow during his red shirt season to get workouts in — took to pass blocking quickly if results are any indication. Central allowed just 12 sacks in 12 games, advancing to the FCS playoffs by winning the NEC title.
It was the first championship in any sport for Mignone and it topped all the individual achievements. The Blue Devils captured the NEC crown by posting a perfect 6-0 record in league play.
“It was a lot of hard work paying off,” Mignone said. “A lot of early mornings in the weight room; standing on that field (with the title) is something I will always remember. We talk a lot about the offensive line sticking up of ether and that was just the best feeling.”
Mignone stayed focused on the field despite considerable distraction off it. His girlfriend was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s’ Lymphoma in October, about halfway through his breakout season. She beat the disease by January after Mignone wrapped up the season.
“It was difficult and everyone goes their struggles,” said Mignone, who is majoring in math and hopes to become an actuary. “You dont think about it at the time wow that was a rollercoaster during the whole prcoess when it happened season cancer school you push through it dont think about it that happened.
The Blue Devils — who received votes in the preseason FCS Top 25 Poll — begin their NEC title defense on Thursday at Ball State.
“I’m hoping he will continue to be a great player for us and take on more of a leadership role on the football team,” Rossomondo said. “And can continue to get better technically as lineman. He’s a ways away from perfect, but if you tell him to work on something he’s going to work harder than anyone to improve.”