FOOTBALL: Ex-Blue Knight Conti signs on with Clemson staff

FOOTBALL: Ex-Blue Knight Conti signs on with Clemson staff

Record-Journal
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Former Southington football player Sal Conti, who went on to serve as an assistant coach at Maloney, is heading to Clemson University, home of the reigning national champions. Conti will serve as a coaches’ recruiting assistant while pursuing a communications degree. | Justin Weekes / For the Record-Journal

SOUTHINGTON — Former Southington High offensive line leader Sal Conti has grasped and processed sound guidance from some astute mentors.

He points primarily to his parents, Audrey and Sal Sr., for their unconditional love and support.

When it comes to gridiron wisdom, the 2014 SHS grad, whose center snaps to quarterback Steve Barmore will forever hold a special place in Blue Knights’ hearts, has cultivated relationships in a constructive manner that transcends his age of 20.

Wisdom works in tandem with the dedication that transformed him into a respected person and player as he embarks on a career that has the potential to place him among football’s greater minds. Conti is transferring from Central Connecticut State University to Clemson, where he’ll serve as a coaches’ recruiting assistant while pursuing a communications degree.

The Tigers are the defending national champions and have appeared in the championship game for two years running.

“I lay down in my bed at night and say, ‘Oh my God, I’m going to Clemson,’ ” Conti said. “I knew about Clemson from afar, but it’s an academic institution held in high regard. People within the football program are focused on doing things the right way, focused on if you put the work in, the developmental aspect kicks in.”

Development has progressed at warp speed for Conti.

Concurrent with entering CCSU came a text message from Maloney head coach Kevin Frederick, whom Conti played for during Frederick’s assistant coaching days at Southington. Conti’s age did not deter Frederick from offering him an assistant’s position.

“I said yes right away,” Conti said. “I was really excited to get an opportunity to work outside the white lines. It gave me a whole new perspective. That was big for me to be in a professional setting, and the kids were great.”

Credit Frederick for recognizing that Conti could provide palpable assets as he engineered the Spartans’ rebirth.

“I knew Sal when he was a player and I’ll be the first to tell you that, when I looked at him as a freshman, I would have bet my house that he wouldn’t play,” Frederick said. “He was a skinny, geeky guy that had no skill.

“To Sal’s credit, he was a tireless worker and dedicated himself every day. If someone told me we would win the state title with Sal at center, I would have laughed. He was an integral part of our offensive line and us being so successful.”

Frederick knew that, at Southington, a potential coach has to be at least two years removed from high school. Not so in Meriden.

“He started for us that offseason and was a tremendous influence in turning the program around from 1-9 to 5-6,” Frederick said. “His knowledge of the offensive line, breaking down film, working with kids: The kids couldn’t believe he was just out of high school.

“[Maloney assistant Mike] Falis took him under his wing. [Falis will] say how much he learned and he’s been coaching football for about 45 years. The curve was unbelievable. We knew he was destined for greater things … He’s a young guy, but we may be looking at the next Bill Belichick.”

When Conti arrived at Central, he immediately sought out a role no matter how menial. Whether tedious or mundane, Conti eagerly attacked his responsibilities and will continue to travel that road until he reaches a destination, which presently he doesn’t care to define.

“Would I like to see myself in a football role say 20 or 30 years from now? Absolutely!” he said. “That’s as far as my goals go. I want to excel as a [coaches’ recruiting assistant], do great in the classroom and do great with the people I meet in South Carolina.

“Then I’ll look at the next set of goals. I’ll have a bunch of options and I’m aware of them, but right now my energy is fixed on making sure Clemson knows they’re getting a hard-working, experienced young man who can make the program better.”

Conti took a major step toward his future when he discovered The Scouting Academy while surfing social media. Last fall, he enrolled in the online course scripted by well-respected NFL scout and one-time UMass assistant Dan Hatman and speaks about what he learned in glowing terms. He was actively attending CCSU and helping out Blue Devils head coach Pete Rossomando at the same time.

“It was the only time in my life I wished I had more than two hands, but I had to make it work with two,” Conti said. “It was a 16-week semester module with foundational knowledge on how to evaluate football players.”

Hatman’s emphasis on assessing the person as well as the player resonated with Conti.

“Is on-the-field stuff important? Yeah, but at end of day you have to understand the makeup of people,” Conti said.

Conti’s motivation enabled him to sustain his academic excellence and football role at CCSU without missing a beat. As a freshman, he was doing office work and organizing recruiting itineraries under the auspices of Adam Jenkins, director of football operations.

Conti spoke appreciatively about his time at CCSU and association with Jenkins and Rossomando. He echoed similar praise for Southington head coach Mike Drury, Blue Knights assistant and his youth coach Rob Thomson and virtually every football person he’s met along the way.

The intensive process meshing seamlessly with his upbeat personality brought Conti to Clemson’s doorstep, his enthusiasm growing as his orange wardrobe expands.

He recognized Clemson as the right fit after speaking to friends who knew the school. The clincher was the interview with Jordan Sorells, the Tigers’ director of recruiting communications.

“Other schools wanted to talk, but as soon as I got on phone with Jordan in March, I knew I was going to be a Tiger,” Conti said.

Yes, his world is becoming more orange by the day, but part of his heart remains forever blue for his town and his present college.

“I always told the guys at Central if my work there made up one percent of what they do, I wanted it to be the best one percent on the team, in the Northeast League and in the FCS [Football Championship Series],” Conti said. “I want to carry that on to Clemson and what I do with my life. National championships are the least important thing. The only ring I’m chasing is a class ring.”


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