Lying inside a Rock Island hospital two years ago made Connor Whan wonder if his football career reached its conclusion.|
Instead, the head injury served as motivation.
"I felt like I had been kind of weak," the Alleman senior football player said, "and that's something I could have prevented."
A hard hit to the head during a preliminary game against Quincy resulted in a hospital visit, making Whan, this week's Metro Pacesetter for The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus, realize that his 135-pound frame was not equipped to handle football. After that, he became a different player.
Whan was weak no more.
"That pushed me to lifting a lot more," Whan said. "That was my motivation to not be weak and push myself."
Over time, a metamorphosis ensued.
Forty pounds heavier, Whan no longer is just a kicker. In the last two years, he has evolved into a valuable player who impacts the Pioneers' offense, defense and special teams.
"He's a really good athlete," Alleman coach Dave DeJaegher said. "He's very versatile."
Need an example of that? Alleman's quarterfinal win over Coal City provides all the evidence.
Whan was on the receiving end of the Pioneers' only completion during the 28-13 victory, a key 57-yard third-quarter reception on third down. Two plays later, Alleman increased its lead to 21-13.On defense, he tallied three tackles and added his third postseason interception.
In between the reception and defensive plays, Whan converted all four extra points he attempted.
It was another all-around performance the Pioneers expect from Whan.Two years ago, this didn't seem possible.
What changed was that hit against Quincy moments after Whan sent a squib kick up the middle.
"I kicked it, then looked up," Whan said. "I was getting ready to turn around and grab my tee. I saw the ball and the guy was falling on it. Just out of the corner of my eye, I see blue (and got hit). I was on the ground. I got up and started stumbling to the sideline. From there, I was done."
On the sideline, Whan lost feeling in his hands and feet. He eventually was taken by ambulance during the game to Trinity Rock Island with what was later diagnosed as a concussion.
"I remember being in the hospital, and I wasn't sure I wanted to do this anymore," Whan said.
Something changed afterward.
"I realized being part of this great program, I'm pretty lucky," Whan said. "We have a lot of success, but it's not just the success. The tradition here is great and (I enjoyed) my teammates. That wasn't something I wanted to miss out on."
At that moment, Whan was re-energized and motivated.
"He really dedicated himself to lifting in the offseason," DeJaegher said. "That made him able to be a more effective football player. He became the hammer, not the nail as they say."
The hit opened Whan's eyes.
Without that, he may have followed his original plan of being just a kicker.
"I might still be on the team, but I wouldn't be an important part," Whan said. "That's not to say I'm more important than anyone else, but I'm moreso a piece to the puzzle."
A blind-side hit can be thanked for that.
Metro Pacesetter - Alleman's Connor Whan
Favorite food: Lasagna
Favorite movie: "Rudy"
Favorite class: Physics with Dr. Schneider
Favorite holiday: Christmas
Favorite dessert: French silk pie
Parents: Dave and Mary Whan, Coal Valley
In the running
Allison Patch, Moline: Earned a state berth after securing a season-best time to win the 100-yard backstroke sectional title.
Kelly Bishop, Rock Island: Won the 100-yard butterfly sectional title in a season-best time of 59.62, advancing to the state meet.