Nov. 14, 2012
By Aimee Dulebohn, Michigan State Athletic Communications Staff Assistant
Senior kicker Dan Conroy was not sure if he would ever play for Michigan State. However, a son of an MSU alum, Conroy knew he would be a Spartan either way.
The Wheaton, Ill., native began his athletic career as a soccer player, but switched over to football with friends in the seventh grade. He quickly became a natural kicker and was sought after by other schools, but was always set on MSU.
"I had an opportunity to go to Western Michigan on a scholarship offer, but my heart was always with Michigan State," Conroy said. "My dad graduated from here in 1977, so I've been bleeding green and white my whole life. I had my heart set on Michigan State the entire time. Whether I had the opportunity to play football or not, I was going to come to MSU."
Conroy walked on to the Spartan football team as a freshman and was redshirted in 2008, then saw limited action in 2009. Having to prove himself more than once, Conroy developed the skills needed to make sure the team knew why he deserved to be the starter.
"It's pretty cool just to see where I've come from," said Conroy, who has made 17 field goals this season, which is tied for sixth most in the nation. "Coming in as a walk-on and having to prove myself when I got here, and then having another scholarship kicker come and having to prove myself again just really helped me build the character I have. The people I've been able to meet have helped me moved forward time after time. That's really been the most touching part of all of this to me, to have made the lifetime relationships with the guys here."
"Brett was a phenomenal kicker here and it was obviously a great experience for me to be under him and see everything that he did," said Conroy. "Aaron was a very spiritual and mentally strong person. Combining the two of them and using all of the attributes that they taught me has helped me in my success here."
One of the most influential players Conroy has been able to meet is former MSU All-American kicker and the all-time leading point scorer in NFL history, Morten Andersen. Conroy visited Andersen in Georgia to learn from the Spartan great.
"He has influenced me tremendously," Conroy said. "I went down to Georgia and saw him in July and spent some time with him. He's an amazing person and great kicker. So the time that I was able to spend down there was tremendously helpful and just a great experience overall."
This past summer, Conroy also prepared for his time after Michigan State working as an intern for Centurion Medical Products. Majoring in communication with a sales specialization, he hopes to take the lessons he learned from his experience to begin a future in medical sales.
Throughout his time playing for Michigan State, Conroy has been a part of plays that are forever engraved in Spartan football history.
Conroy had one field goal and six kickoffs in 2009 before earning the starting job and a scholarship during the 2010 season.
As he walked onto the field to try and force the 2010 Notre Dame game into a second overtime, head coach Mark Dantonio said the two words that Conroy will remember for the rest of his life: "Little Giants." The legendary fake field goal that won the game for the Spartans helped spark MSU's school-record 11-win season, a year in which he earned first-team All-Big Ten honors.
As memorable as that play was, however, Conroy recalls another game that would go down as his favorite.
"My favorite kick would be the one against Georgia to tie the game and send it into triple overtime," said Conroy. "It was a 35-yarder and if I missed that kick, the game would've been over. That was probably the most pressure kick I've had and one of my better kicks. To go down there and beat the Georgia team that we did was a complete team effort. I don't know if I've ever felt anything more satisfying as a complete team. The team unity and the pure victory was just amazing."
With all the pressure that comes with being a kicker, it is important to stay focused and keep motivated through each practice and each kick in every game throughout the entire season. Conroy remembers lessons from his former teammates in order to keep his mind where it needs to be.
"One thing that Brett always told me was to just stay in the moment," Conroy said. "I think when we come out here in practice, if you just stay in the moment and focus on the one kick or the one repetition you need to, you can worry about everything else later. Aaron Bates always said to focus on the process and not the results. So, I think those two go hand in hand. If I can just focus on the next thing that will help me get better, the results will come."
Conroy will leave Michigan State with his name scattered throughout the record book. He currently ranks among the school's all-time leaders in field goals made (fifth with 49), point-after attempts made (sixth with 113) and points scored (sixth with 260). His 14 consecutive field goals made to open his career marked the best start for a placekicker in Michigan State history, and his .778 field-goal percentage (49-for-63) is second all-time at MSU.
A long way from a walk-on, Conroy only has a few more moments left as a kicker for the Spartans. Looking back, he will have no regrets on taking his chances and choosing to come to Michigan State.
"We have a quote up in the specialists room that talks about the fact that it's not how great you are, but how great you are with the talent that you have," said Conroy. "I think everybody has different talents. It's not what you have and how you can coast by with that, but how you develop those talents and those skills and apply it to be the best athlete or person you can be."
This feature was originally published in the Nov. 3 edition of Michigan State Football Gameday Magazine.