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Connor Arlia: ‘It’s about serving God’

December 3, 2012
By MIKE MATHISON - Sports editor (mmathison@heraldstaronline.com) , The Herald-Star

I love what I do.

There are more perks than the average person knows.

The biggest perk, though, is being around a bunch of teenagers who "get it."

A lot of them do, more than what many adults tend to believe.

One of those athletes is Connor Arlia.

He gets it. Always has.

Not sure if he always will, but I would bet my modest living on it.

That's not to put any pressure on the young man.

I couldn't do that because he puts enough pressure on himself to be the young man of God that he is.

Walking that line is not easy and he is one of many young men and women who do so on a daily basis.

I was lucky enough to run into Connor Saturday night as he was on the sideline to watch his Madonna football team in the West Virginia Class A state championship football game against Wahama.

So, we talked.

The West Virginia University slot receiver was going to see playing time in the Orange Bowl against Clemson as a freshman, but he never suited up.

Arlia broke his right fibula and two ribs, had a bruised lung and a lacerated kidney in a jet ski accident on New Year's Eve day during a team beach party outside the Fountainebleau Hotel.

The 2010 Weirton Madonna graduate watched the 70-33 victory instead of playing in it.

"That accident absolutely increased my faith in God," he said. "I had a chance to play in the Orange Bowl and I was all excited about that and it was taken away like that (he snaps his fingers). It can happen to anyone.

"I thank God for every day, every day on this earth because it is an absolute blessing and no one should ever take that for granted. I thank him for it. The accident really did open my eyes. It made me realize that football's not everything.

"It's about serving God."

Arlia has started a handful of games for WVU this year. He has seven receptions for 43 yards. He had three for 25 yards in the loss at Oklahoma State.

"It's been a blessing, an absolute blessing," he said about wearing No. 83 for WVU. "Just to be able to play for our state team, represent the state and have the opportunities I've had to play as hard as I could for our team - it's truly been a blessing.

Arlia, a straight-A student at Madonna, chose to be a preferred walk-on for the Mountaineers, choosing them over Harvard, Penn, Davidson, Carnegie Mellon and Robert Morris.

"Hard work it what it's all about and that's something my parents have instilled in me, and my coaches my whole life," said the 2010 Wendy's High School Heisman winner in West Virginia. "I just thank God for my work ethic. I think I have kind of turned it up a notch. I think you have to once you get onto the college level. No matter where you're at, you have to keep working harder and harder and that's all I'm going to try to do.

"When I first came in, I always thought I could play. I always had the mindset that I could play. Whatever God's will is, is his will. I've been blessed that the coach gave me an opportunity. And, when I got my chance, I was blessed to make a couple of plays. It's been great.

"I think the decision was easy for me because it's always been my dream to play at the highest level and I wasn't going to let anyone tell me that I couldn't. I wasn't going to let that happen. My parents supported me with the decision, and I thank them so much for that. It's paid off so far."

The decision to play at the highest level was rather easy for the MVP of the 2011 North-South Game.

"I try to be humble," he said. "I'm sure there was some talk, but I try not to listen to anything anyone says. I just try to go my hardest, give everything I've got. That's all I can do.

"Life isn't easy. I won't say that this has been easy. There's been some struggles here and there, but it's constantly trusting in God. I just feel you have to pray and have absolute faith in God. I know that He's going to take care of me. I just have to work as hard as I can and whatever happens, happens."

WVU will take on Syracuse in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl Dec. 29 at Yankees Stadium. It will be a 3:15 p.m. kickoff, televised on ESPN.

(Mathison, a Weirton resident, is the sports editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mmathison@heraldstaronline.com)

 
 

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