Monday, January 05, 2015

Naugatuck receiver headed to UConn

It wasn't too long ago that one of Craig Bruno's prize pupils went to UConn as a walk-on only to become a dynamic playmaker as a senior en route to a spot with the NFL's Buffalo Bills.

Perhaps lightning will strike again as Bryan Coney, who has been a star receiver for Bruno in the last two seasons at Naugatuck High, decided to accept a spot as a preferred walk-on at UConn 10 years ago Marcus Easley followed the same route to stardom after playing for Bruno at Bunnell.

"Last year, I went to their camp and did well at the camp," said Coney, who had 52 catches for 1,171 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior at Naugatuck. "They offered me a preferred walk-on spot before my senior year started. They told me they wanted to offer me a full scholarship or preferred walk-on and at the end of the season they offered me a preferred walk-on. I took a little while to decide and then I talked to my family and decided the other day that it is the best decision for me. I called my recruiting coordinator Coach (Josh) Reardon and told them I wanted to commit. I talked to him, Coach (Wayne) Lineburg the receivers coach and made the decision that I want to go to UConn.

"I am really excited. I go up for an official visit next weekend and I am really excited because I love it up there, I loved UConn ever since I was a kid in basketball and football so I just feel like it is a great opportunity."

Bruno, who also helped develop Mark Harrison into a Division I receiver at Bunnell, didn't want to put additional pressure on Coney by comparing him to one receiver (Easley) in the NFL and another one (Harrison) in the CFL.

"He is a player that has a lot of potential, they are both great kids, both hard workers," Bruno said. "It's tough to put those kinds of expectations on him, Marcus is doing very well in the NFL right now but definitely similarities, they are both great players.

"He definitely stretches the field. I don't know what they have planned for him but he is big, 6-3 and is a great player."

Coney credits Bruno for convincing him he could play at the next level.

"Until Coach Bruno came to Naugatuck I never really thought about football," Coney said. "He always had faith in me and he always gave me confidence. he was the one who told me. I could play at the next level. He really gave me the belief that I really could do it. He proved it with Marcus and a bunch of other players. He knows what it takes to be at that level and told me I could so I thought I could do it too."

A year ago UConn coach Bob Diaco awarded scholarships to punter Justin Wain, long snapper Dom Manco and defensive back Chris DeBerry due to their attitudes and work ethic. That wasn't lost on Coney when it came time to make his decision.

"They really made it a point that there was a chance that I could earn a scholarship," Coney said. "I talked to him (Diaco) a couple of times that once you get there it is not about whether you are on scholarship or not but if you are working hard and you are proving yourself you are going to get a spot and get a chance to play. I think I am going to work hard, I want to work hard, I want to play for UConn so I think it is going to work out well.

"It is a real family-orientated staff up there so I went to a lot of home games there, took a lot of visits. Everybody on the staff, all the coaches, all the assistants, Coach Diaco are all heartwarming and very heartfelt (people) and I really loved when I was up there and I felt like it was the best place for me even though I may have to be paying a little bit I just felt like that was a place I wanted to be and people I want to be around."

UConn is also expressing interest in Hartford Public offensive lineman Keith Coleman.


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