KATY MAGAZINE I AUGUST 2019
By Anne Lee
In a football town like Katy, young players learn the game and build strong bonds by working hard and competing together. But sometimes, friends find themselves on opposing teams. Meet Katy high school football standouts, Hayden Conner and Jalen Milroe, childhood best friends and former teammates. These high school juniors have plans to reunite on the college playing field at the University of Texas.
Hayden Conner, Taylor High School and Jalen Milroe, Tompkins High School; Photo courtesy: Jennifer Miko
Jalen Milroe and Hayden Conner have been playing football together from a very young age, either on the same team, or as rivals.
In sixth grade, they played for Football University (FBU), as Sun Devils. Their dads, Quentin Milroe and Steve Conner, coached them and led the team to a national victory. The Sun Devils included many other young men (including Casey Shorter pictured below) from Katy schools who are also being recruited by elite college football programs from all over the United States.
Casey Shorter, Hayden Conner and Jalen Milroe
“FBU was the largest platform to go out and compete in,” Steve Conner says.
The team ended their season winning the national championship, beating 64 other teams from all over the country. Hayden and Jalen said it was during these times that structure, direction, and discipline were being instilled in them.
“We even had to bring our report cards to show our coaches,” Hayden recalls. Hayden also credits Katy ISD for keeping both young men connected through their high school years.
“When we play against each other, I am all smiles, Jalen says. "I want nothing but the best for Hayden even when our teams play against each other." Hayden fully agreed.
A Mustang Targeting a Longhorn
Hayden Conner, born and raised in Katy, Texas, attends Taylor High School in Katy ISD. Since his freshman year, he has played varsity football for the Mustangs.
The 16-year-old offensive tackle looks like he could play college level ball right now. At 6’6” the high school junior weighs 330lbs. Last year he made First-team All-district Selection at Offensive Tackle.
“Hayden has been a vital part of our program since he was a freshman,” says Coach Jensen, Defensive Line/Kicking Game Coordinator. “He has worked extremely hard to master his craft on a daily basis.”
Although Hayden has verbally committed to the University of Texas, he has goals for his last two years of high school. He wants to keep his grades up, spend time with his family, and he help make the Mustang football team even better.
Hayden has spent his summer helping the Offensive Line Coach Travis Sharp install the blocking schemes and run offense with the underclassmen.
“His attention to detail, retention of knowledge, and work ethics separate him from the rest,” says Coach Jensen. “He is the epitome of a student athlete.”
Hayden Conner; Photo courtesy: Veronica Miko
Reaching for the Stars
Hayden’s life goal has been to attend the University of Texas and become an Aerospace Engineer for NASA. His sole focus is not only on athletics, but on academics as well. His father has instilled in Hayden a love for science.
“Since Hayden was little, he was always fascinated with Marvel’s superheroes,” says Steve Conner. “Early on he learned that there was one superhero he could actually become, Iron Man. By focusing on engineering and the sciences he could actually become one of his heroes.”
For Christmas when Hayden was in the fourth grade, his father renovated Hayden’s room into his own Conner Industries Weapons lab. The room was fully equipped with a soldering station, a work bench, and tools.
Hayden's most notable academic highlight came during his sophomore year when he was chosen to represent Taylor High School at the NASA space settlement design competition. 200 kids from 10 states spent the weekend at NASA. They were grouped into four, 50-person teams. Hayden was the director of structural engineering for his team and designed their concepts in an engineering CAD system.
Helping the Falcons Soar
Jalen Milroe moved to Katy when he was six. Today, the high school junior stands 6’2” and weighs 190 lbs. Jalen has played varsity football under the direction of Tompkins High School Head Coach Todd McVey since he was a freshman.
“Coachable,” is what Coach McVey proudly says about his Falcon quarterback. "He has put in a great summer and I am excited to get back to work with him and the team August 12th when we open up fall camp.”
Jalen is currently ranked as the number three dual-threat quarterback in the nation for the class of 2021. He helped transform the Mustang's winless season (during his freshman year) to a 10-3 season last year.
Tompkins Football Offensive Coordinator Mark Hopkins says, "He's the most competitive player and best leader I've coached. He lights up the room when he walks through the door.”
Jalen Milroe; Photo courtesy: Jennifer Miko
The young QB wrapped up his sophomore year with 1,420 passing yards (averaging 108 yards per game), and another 609 yards on the ground, and 20 touchdowns.
"I must say that Jalen is one of the most impressive athletes I have ever met in my coaching career," says Kalief Muhammed, Tompkins Assistant Football Coach/Recruitment Coordinator. "I truly believe he will be in position to win the Hiesman trophy in college."
Even with his impressive on-field stats, Jalen wants to be known as more than a good football player. He plans to major in business and sports management and would like to own his own athletic facility one day.
“Football may end at some point, but a great education will carry me further,” Jalen says.
Determined to Make the Grade
Jalen works very hard to keep his life in balance, and is determined to be remembered by his academic excellence above all else. He also learned early on that having a good relationship with his teachers was especially important. He gives thanks to many of his Katy ISD teachers for his success, however one teacher, Karen Byrd, stands out to him.
“You determine how teachers act towards you,” Jalen says. “She built a relationship with me in elementary school that continues even today."
Jalen’s goals for his last two years of high school at Tompkins are to become 1% better every day. He desires to be a better son and a better student. Before every game, Jalen tapes his wrists and makes sure to write Philippians 4:13 on them.
"Although he is extremely talented, the greatest thing about Jalen is how much of a great person he is off the field," says Muhammed. "He is a humbled player that thinks about others before himself. In this day and age when many athletes only think about themselves, it’s so refreshing to see him put others first."
Photo courtesy: Veronica Miko
Putting UT in Their fUTure
On Sunday, July 21, Jalen gave his verbal commitment to the University of Texas. On the very next day, Hayden committed to go there too.
Jalen reflects on Hayden’s decision saying, “I actually teared up when he committed. This is a chance in a lifetime to get to play with my ‘brother.’”
Both boys plan to graduate from high school a semester early and enter the University of Texas in December 2020.
Father and son teams: Quentin and Jalen Milroe, and Hayden and Steve Conner; Photo courtesy: Jennifer Miko
Best Wishes from their Biggest Fans
"I am truly thankful for the opportunity for the boys to be able to play together again on the next level and continue to chase their dreams!" says Quentin Milroe.
Steve Conner is proud of both boys and their futures and says, “I want both boys to be good men, good fathers, and to tackle whatever comes at them in life."