Sawyer represents Washington in all-star game

Published 5:57 pm Friday, July 22, 2016

Six years ago when his father, Sport Sawyer, was a coach for the 2010 NCCA East-West all-star football game, Conner Sawyer was a 12-year-old ball boy. Over half a decade and countless hours of work on the gridiron later, Sawyer helped lead the east to a 20-3 win in Wednesday’s game.

Sawyer was one of a few Pam Pack players nominated to participate in the game. One of his favorite parts about the entire experience was being able to represent not only Washington, but also Campbell, where he will be playing in the fall.

“It was a great experience to be able to go and represent Washington High School along with Campbell University. It was really fun and an honor,” Sawyer said. “Going in, I though I was going to be a backup offensive lineman, but when I got there, they told me they wanted me to snap on PATs and punts. Also kick returns. I got to play on that and then I got to play the second half at center.

“It feels like I was having flashbacks. I was thinking, ‘Wow, I remember walking out here as a little kid.’ I didn’t really know if I would be able to put on the jersey and to be able to put it on was crazy.”

The east had a marginal 6-3 lead going into the second half. Sawyer, who stepped in at center after the first offensive drive of the second half, helped the offense score a pair of touchdowns to cruise to a 14-point win.

The opportunity allowed Sawyer to don pads and get out on the field for the first time in a while. It was a nice change of pace from the training he had been doing recently and gave him another taste of competitive football ahead of the upcoming preseason at Campbell.

“It was fun to be able to start hitting again. The past few weeks, I’ve been training at Campbell nonstop with not a lot of football stuff,” he said. “Being able to put the pads on was kind of like payday. … It was good to get that feeling back.”

Conner Sawyer poses with his plaque recognizing him as one of the state’s all-star football players. (Sport Sawyer/Contributed)

The rise from one-time ball boy to impact player almost didn’t happen. Sport Sawyer received a phone call late last week asking if Connor Sawyer could play. The team had a no-show on the offensive line and was hoping Sawyer would be available to participate at the last minute.

They cleared it with the coaching staff at Campbell. When a text message confirming his spot came Friday night, Sawyer had to scramble to get everything together — helmet, pads and a brand-new pair of cleats. Sawyer and his father left for practice the following morning at 5 a.m. and he was squared away to be one of the east’s all stars.

“I honestly thought, as a dad and as a coach, he was just going to be there, which is an honor,” Sport Sawyer said. “In the stands during the game, watching him out there warming up and doing stuff was good.”

That said, neither really expected Conner Sawyer to play the role he did in the east’s win. While being named to the team was an honor in and of itself, helping put together the decisive scoring drives was an impressive benchmark in Sawyers still-young career.

“I’m proud of him as a dad, too, but also as a coach at Washington. All the work he’s put in paid off for him and he got to play the rest of the game. I’m very proud of him,” Sport Sawyer said.

Conner Sawyer got to play along side some of his high school rivals from the likes of Beddingfield, Havelock and Conley. However, while Sawyer will always represent the Pam Pack, he’s getting ready to don the black and orange of the Fighting Camels as he takes the next step in his career.