When people suggest to A.J. Coney that he isn’t big enough to play college football at the highest of levels, it drives him. Often times even infuriates him.
But the Oviedo defensive back/slot receiver/kick returner channels his disgust with those scouts who fail to see past his 5-foot-8, 160-pound frame and turns it into his motivation to reach that level. College football’s upper crust — Division I-A.
One coach, however, knew a little something about A.J. Coney. Former UCF head football coach Mike Kruczek is the offensive coordinator at UMass, which will start NCAA Division I-A play in 2013, and it’s likely that he had heard a little something about Coney prior to hitting the recruiting trail.
Kruczek’s son, Garrett, is a quarterback at Winter Park Lake Howell High and he’s probably been hassled by Coney’s DB skills a few times when facing the Seminole County foe.
Kruczek likes what he sees enough in Coney that he handed the diminutive athlete a scholarship offer on Thursday.
“It feels great to finally get one. I’ve been working my butt off,” Coney said. “They said they think I do good job with punt returns and kickoff returns and that I could play offense or defense. They evaluated me and graded me for both and when they asked what I liked to play I told them corner.”
Ah yes, cornerback. That’s where he thrives. Out there on ‘Coney Island’ is where he roams and dares DBs to venture into his zone. Coney, however, isn’t the type of defensive back who will lie in wait. He challenges receivers.
Many receivers are initially shocked at the physical presence of Coney, who loves to come to the line of scrimmage and give his opponent a little warning punch to let him know he’s there.
“I’ve worked a lot on my jab technique.” Coney said. “They don’t expect that at first.”
And if he does have to go mano-a-mano with the bigger wide receivers?
“I feel like I can go up and get it with any of them, or at least make sure they don’t catch it,” he said. “I feel like I am one of the best DBs out there, but it’s just that the coaches gotta see it.”
Receivers see it. Orlando Evans’ stellar wideout Dominic Walker has said he thinks Coney is one of the best DBs he has faced.
Coney knows it does put somewhat of a target on him, and even gives cause for opposing quarterbacks to look the other way.
“They’re out to get me when they hear that stuff,” Coney said of receivers. “I make them realize that I’m good and then they don’t throw at me much.”
Yes it can get lonely out on Coney Island sometimes, but a few more scholarship offers might ease his loneliness.
“I’ve been getting a bunch of interest from schools,” .. one of the end of offering soon keep working
“Coach Kruczek was saying that he knows it must be hard hearing that other schools say I’m not big enough,” Coney said. “He said he don’t care about all that as long as I make plays and get the job done.
“I’m excited I got one [offer] finally, but I’m still hungry.”Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting.