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story.lead_photo.caption Bud Sullins/Special to the Herald-Leader Siloam Springs senior Dillon Conn is one of the Panthers' toughest players, playing undersized at center on the offensive line.

When it comes to attitude and effort on the football field, Siloam Springs football coaches don't worry about what they're going to get from Dillon Conn.

Conn -- a 5-foot-11, 197-pound center -- is one of the scrappiest Panthers on the roster and makes up for a lack of physical size with his fight and determination.

Conn's tenacity and grit make him one of the more popular players among coaches and teammates as well.

"He's definitely a kid that as a coach you absolutely love because he's going to give you every bit of effort that he has," said Siloam Springs head coach Brandon Craig. "You know he doesn't win every battle, but he goes and fights to win every battle. Just a kid that does it the right way -- like I said, as a coach you love that. You love coaching kids like that. He's a kid that you can trust every time to give you his best effort. In coaching nowadays, that's something that's priceless."

Conn's in his second year starting on the offensive line for the Panthers (3-2, 1-1 6A-West), who host defending 6A champion Greenwood (4-1, 2-0) at 7 p.m. Friday for homecoming.

Conn was having a solid junior season when he suffered a concussion in Week 4 at Sheridan and ended up missing several games. Missing time on the field gave Conn plenty of inspiration during offseason and summer workouts.

"I realized how much I missed not being able to play," Conn said, "so I was like, 'put in the work this year, work harder than you ever have before.'"

It didn't take long for Conn's work ethic to catch the attention of Craig, the first-year Panthers coach.

"I realized the kind of work ethic and desire he had after about two weeks of being here," Craig said. "He's just a kid that shows up in the weight room, does everything we ask him to do and did it to the best of his ability and did it with tremendous effort."

Craig said it was when the Panthers went to team camp at Pittsburg State that he knew Conn was a ballplayer.

"There's times on the field and you look out there and he's in the mix and making things happen and you're wondering how?" Craig said. "And then you realize it's just his determination and will that's making it happen."

Conn is used to going up against opposing defensive linemen that are bigger, stronger and taller than he is.

"The biggest challenge is obviously every game the dude's bigger than me," Conn said. "I mean every game."

Conn said he tries to make up for it with his technique.

"Coach always says you can't push a dude when you're on the ground," Conn said. "I always try and stay off the ground and keep my pad level low because that's how I was taught. That's how I do my job as an offensive lineman."

Conn is also a player that takes advantage of opportunities that are given to him. He said he didn't see a lot of playing time as a freshman but never gave up hope that he would see the field one day.

"I was always really dedicated to this game, and I kept working hard," he said. "I kept trying and eventually pieces fell in place. Some dudes went down, I got my chance and I showed what I can really do."

Conn realizes that's a great message to send to the younger players the Panthers try and mentor along the way.

"I would like to say to them, it doesn't matter how big you are," he said. "Because I still fight -- through my work ethic -- I was able to find a way to get on the field."

Craig said he would prefer to have a whole team full of players like Dillon Conn.

"I would coach a hundred kids like him over a talented selfish person any day of the week because you know you're going to get that kid's best effort," Craig said. "I think he's a kid that all the players on the team look to, because they know as players he's completely a team player and is going to do everything possible to help the team be successful."

Sports on 10/03/2018

Print Headline: Fighter on the field

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