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How Football Analytics Put a Walk-On on a Path to the NFL

Author: Dave Grendzynski

The insights we’re getting from our guests on The Xtra Edge podcast are even better than we imagined. Take University of Louisiana Coach Connor Neighbors, for instance. When he was asked, How did you discover sports analytics?” The answer even shocked us. 

Coach Neighbors, who is now the Director of Athletic Performance for the Ragin’ Cajuns Football team, said he went to LSU as a PWOpreferred walk on. He was considered to be an undersized linebacker, and even he acknowledged that he wasn’t the biggest or fastest player. 

The only guarantee he got was a chance to compete, with no scholarship or promises.

Coaches can now save 20 – 30 minutes each practice session by using the only GPS football tracker that has a fully automated workload. No manual steps needed. No wires. No cables.

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The Day Sports Data Changed Everything

The football team at LSU was collecting data and football analytics at the time (2010), but Connor never wore a player tracking sensor because he was a walk-on. But one day everything changed. Somebody was sick, and he got the chance to wear a sensor at practice. 

After that practice, Coach Tommy Moffitt, who’s now the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach at Texas A & M, went to then Head Coach Les Miles and the rest of the coaching staff and told them what the data was telling him. 

He said that Neighbors had one of the highest acceleration and deceleration rates on the team. But Moffitt wasn’t lobbying for Neighbors to play linebacker, he said that he’d be a great candidate for their open fullback position.

The Director of Athletic Performance for Football at the University of Louisiana, Connor Neighbor works with sports analytics company KINEXON to provide data.

As a preferred walk on, it’s the data that actually helped me get on the field.”

Connor Neighbors, Director of Football Strength and Conditioning, University of Louisiana

It wasn’t long after that the preferred walk-on linebacker asked Coach Miles if he could switch to fullback, and he did. He became a full-time player on offense, playing in 43 games, starting 17, and developed a reputation as being a punishing blocker. He said, As a preferred walk on, it’s the data that actually helped me get on the field.”

From PWO to D1 Starter to the NFL

Connor Neighbors told the Xtra Edge podcast that if it wasn't for sports data, he would have never gotten the chance to play as a Freshman and put together a college career that got his a shot at the NFL.

He also credits the metrics (and the insights they provided) with helping him get the opportunity to play as a true freshman in a game against North Carolina in the Georgia Dome. 

His college football career resulted in an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, and the chance to sign as an undrafted free agent with the Tennessee Titans. 

An injury cut his professional career short, but he’s taking what he learned and applying it to coaching. 

If you think that story’s crazy, tune into The Xtra Edge” podcast to also find out how he got the nickname Bonesaw”, and how he’s using football analytics in his current role. 

Check out our guide that will help you get started tracking football data.

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