Don Bosco Prep grad Ray Conley “Never Give Up” motto leads to football success at Hobart College
While growing up in Lyndhurst, New Jersey Ray Conley played a number of sports. Whether it was baseball, basketball or football Conley enjoyed playing sports in the town. Attending public school until 8th grade, it was a family member that would change his outlook to attend a private high school.
“My grandpa used to be a coach at Don Bosco and wanted me to go there” said Conley. “I took my visit, Ironman For a Day and remember I went in and immediately fell in love with the campus. They hold you to a higher standard in every aspect for a day. Coming in every day wearing a polo and khakis with your shirt tucked in with a belt and dress shoes”.
However, there would be a major obstacle that Conley would encounter, having to take the train by himself from Lyndhurst to Ramsey. “Starting class at 7:25 a.m. I would wake up early and take the train to school. Coming into my freshman year at Bosco I did not know anyone, about a half-hour away from home and was not that close so I would have to take the train by myself to get there and head up to school. It made me feel comfortable with being uncomfortable as a person and felt numb to it”.
When an attempt at making the baseball his freshman year did not pan out, Conley switched to football. Despite a rough couple of years Conley said it was the support of his parents that kept him going. “The most important thing to me is my family and my parents’ have been so supportive and really wanted me to be the best version of myself and sacrificed a lot for me to be where I am. I remember when I had doubts in high school and not getting much playing time and considered leaving and going to a different school to play and they wanted me to stick by it and grind it out and pushed me to be a better person”.
Fats forward to his senior year in 2015 at Don Bosco Prep where Conley played every game for the Ironmen that season. The team went 9-3 and won a state championship, defeating St. Joseph Regional (Montvale) 21-10. “A fairy tale ending and was pretty awesome because it was Coach (Greg) Toal’s last state championship team at Don Bosco” Conley said. “An accomplishment I will never forget and not to mention scoring a touchdown inside Met Life Stadium and been a dream of mine getting into the end zone”
“Not easy to pull off with the level of competition in Non-Public Group 4 and best competition in the country. I think our camaraderie was amazing with that senior class of brothers and still stay in touch with them to this day. A very tight knit group and we pulled through adversity. It’s all about the guy across from you and not how much you hate the guy across from you and what we had in that group was special and able to finish it out”.
“Coach Toal is the ultimate competitor and if there is a definition of that it’s Coach Toal. He is mentally tough and prepares you for war. He is the best coach I ever had in my life and playing for him an honor. I will never forget the two a day practices with Coach Toal, hot summer days and him pushing us to our limits. Those are the things you take for granted and remember years later how he pushed us”.
“Being with those guys and the environment the school brings is truly a brotherhood. If you are not part of you don’t understand it. The student sections for our games were unreal and be packed cheering us on. Playing at Granatell Stadium is a different feeling, you walk up the hill and students surrounding us and going crazy when we step out on the field. I remember our senior year we beat Bergen Catholic twice on our field and the student section went wild and everyone just rushed the field after we won and greatest feeling ever”.
Making the decision to attend Hobart College in Conley spent time on the junior varsity team in his freshman year. “My freshman year I came here we won the Liberty League and had a talented group of guys, said Conley. I was on the scout team with a couple of other guys and definitely made me better that season. Once that season was over I decided that I wanted to play and meant everything to get on that field. I had one of my best spring practices with no dropped passes and felt good to see my hard work pay off”.
Returning for his sophomore year Conley backed up the hard work starting all 10 games for Statesman, catching 24 passes and 320 yards and second on the team in receiving yards. “I earned the starting spot and just felt amazing,” Conley said. “As a young guy right behind an All-American and leading wide receiver in yards and felt I accomplished the goals I had set for myself. In my junior year I felt there was room for improvement and goal was to get better”.
There would be major changes in the football program before the 2018 season in a new head coach in Kevin Dewall. Conley managed to adapt to Dewall’s system starting in eight of nine games, catching 27 passes for 510 yards and leading the team in touchdowns with eight while earning Second-Team All-Liberty League honors. Also helping out Conley was Art Garvey, the receivers coach.
“Coach Dewall came in with the right mindset that we didn’t have the year before and could build up” said Conley. “Coach Garvey is a great guy, really passionate about the game and gets very emotional, pretty intense and gets after you. It’s great to have someone who cares so much for the game. A Hobart alum who knows what the grind is about and brings that Hobart culture and history and tries to implement that in coaching which is a huge deal”.
“It’s about teaching the younger guys what Hobart football is all about and we’re going to step out on to that field and do everything in our power to win. If you are not into that Coach (Garvey) says we don’t want you here and not going to buy into what we are building here then don’t even show up because you have to work every day. We have anew strength and conditioning coach to has done a fantastic job and prepared us for the season. In season we lift three to four times a week starting at 6 a.m. If you are not getting after it every day I think you are getting worse”.
For Conley success is not just measured on the field but off the field, in terms of giving back and being a student-athlete. “The community is great, we help out quite a bit. We had a donation for Touchdown for Tackles where when we scored we donated seven dollars and for every tackle we made one dollar. We go to different elementary schools wearing our jerseys. The kids come to the games and we give high fives and sign autographs that makes me feel special and worthy”.
“Being a student-athlete is a difficult task with many obligations. Practices, lifting in the morning and study hall. When you come in as a freshman it’s mandatory, one hour a day and maybe three times a week. They really harp on team G.P.A. and guys that are most successful on the field are in the classroom as well. A lot of dedication to balance out school work and being an athlete are the price you pay. My major is Economics and looking for an internship in finance in New York City”.
In his final season at Hobart, Conley has continued to excel, hauling in 29 catches for 457 yards and four touchdowns as the Statesman are sporting a 7-2 record and are undefeated at home (6-0). “It feels to go out with a winning record and goal is to win out the Liberty League that would be a great way to end my college career” said Conley. “Coming from Don Bosco it was all about winning and if you didn’t have a winning record that season it was a failure. Coming to Hobart and knowing about the winning culture and having huge alumni help in donating an indoor field with a bubble that we practice in. The students on game day and tailgating before the game are pretty awesome”.
Conley had this closing message for younger athletes, “Everyone is going to have their bad days and get down on themselves. Giving up is not an option and answer is if you want to do something you have to see it through and that’s what I did and made a promise to myself I’m going to get out there and do everything to achieve my goals. If you really believe you can do it, a matter of willpower”.
Sunil Sunder Raj
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