The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA


October 5, 2012

Conley flexing his muscles for Red Flash

LORETTO — Dan Conley carved out quite the athletic career during his days at Burgettstown High School in Washington County.

As a senior, Conley won conference MVP honors in football before capping things with a PIAA Class AA wrestling championship. For his accomplishments, Conley, who is affectionately called “The Danimal” by those who know him best, remains a revered figure in his hometown.

He’s also one of the more well-respected players on the St. Francis football team. Conley is so liked by teammates, one went as far as having a T-shirt made commemorating Conley’s grand high school athletic achievement.

When Conley pinned Dan Winnie of Danville in the 215-pound final in 2008, he jumped up and triumphantly performed a double-armed flex that would make Hulk Hogan proud. Newspaper photographers captured the pose, and Red Flash teammate and linebacker Ryan Revtai immortalized it on a T-shirt he frequently wears around campus.

“There’s that picture of me on the front, and he even had me sign it,” Conley said following practice Friday afternoon as St. Francis (2-3) prepares for a NEC home game against rival Robert Morris (1-3). Kickoff is scheduled for noon.

“I signed it for him one day in the cafeteria. Every time he wears it, I usually run into four or five people who flex for me.”

Even St. Francis head coach Chris Villarrial knows about Conley’s wrestling prowess.

“Oh yeah, he’s the all-star gold medalist from Burgettstown,” Villarrial said.

Conley’s high school success – he opted to play football for St. Francis after receiving interest by several Division I and II wrestling programs, including Pitt-Johnstown – has translated to the next level, where he’s been a key member of the Red Flash football team since his freshman season as a starting fullback.

For the 6-foot-1, 234-pound Conley, it’s been a long journey.

A fifth-year senior, Conley suffered a devastating hip injury during his freshman season.

“We were playing at Morehead (State) in Kentucky and I caught a pass and was tackled kind of weird,” Conley said. “My hip dislocated. I was done the rest of the season. It was really painful.”

And potentially a career-ending injury, but Conley managed to be back in time for spring practice.

“When he blew out his hip, they said he’d never play again,” Villarrial said. “He didn’t miss a beat. In fact, he came up to me, and it was my first year at that point, and told me he would be here for every game. I can’t say enough words about that guy. Words can’t explain him. You want your sons growing up like Dan Conley. He’s the first one in and the last one to leave the weight room, yet he still has over a 3.5 GPA. You want a bunch of Dan Conleys on your football team.”

Conley’s work ethic always earned high praise, even during his high school days, when his physical strength helped him overwhelm the competition.

He certainly left an impression during last week’s game at Duquesne, which St. Francis lost, 24-21, after holding an 11-point fourth-quarter lead.

Conley leveled Duquesne linebacker Dorian Bell, who was originally an Ohio State recruit, on a block and knocked Bell from the game.

“It was one of those moments where we were on the sidelines like, ‘Oh my gosh, he just did that,’ ” Villarial said. “He’s one of those guys that gets a lot more recognition if he plays on a winning team.”

Which is exactly what St. Francis hopes to become, and with Conley’s help blocking and carrying the football in a rushing offense that averages 262.2 yards per game. If the Red Flash can do that against the Colonials, there’s a good chance they’ll even their record.

“I’m so happy to get a chance to play football with these guys and start a winning tradition,” Conley said. “It’s kind of like what we were able to do at Burgettstown. It’s a great feeling, and it’s something we’ve been building for the last four years. We’re out to establish ourselves as a program.”

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
  • SRU vs UPJ baseball0418 1 UPJ takes one, drops second

    John Fees’ spring baseball season accurately mirrors that of his Pitt-Johnstown team.
    Fees started slow, losing his first four decisions, but has rebounded nicely in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West Division.

    April 18, 2014 2 Photos

  • Pirates 0418 Brewers ward off late Pirates rally bid

    Kyle Lohse pitched effectively into the seventh inning, Carlos Gomez homered and the Milwaukee Brewers beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-3 Friday night.
    Lohse (3-1) improved to 11-2 in his career against the Pirates, allowing one earned run in a win against them for the second time in six days.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Drama lacking sans Tiger

    If professional golf saw its future at Augusta National last weekend, the sight had to be worse than choking on a 5-foot putt.
    The course was there in all its splendor.

    April 18, 2014

  • Penguins 0418 Penguins are wary of spunky Blue Jackets

    Sidney Crosby is used to the attention. It comes with the territory when you’re the best hockey player in the world.
    Still, the Pittsburgh Penguins star knows the spotlight becomes more acute in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Pirates 0417 Pirates power past Brewers

    Andrew McCutchen hit his first homer of the season and drove in three runs, Pedro Alvarez had a three-run shot and pinch-hitter Josh Harrison broke a tie with a long ball in the seventh inning as the Pittsburgh Pirates handed the Milwaukee Brewers their first road loss, 11-2 on Thursday night.
    Harrison’s two-run drive down the left field line off Rob Wooten (0-1) was the second of his career as a pinch hitter.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Penguins 0417 Jackets preparing for Game 2

    The Columbus Blue Jackets don’t feel they’re doomed after blowing a two-goal lead in a Game 1 loss of their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
    “It’s not about missed chances, or feeling sorry about it,” goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky said at Thursday’s optional workout, 13 hours after falling 4-3 in Pittsburgh.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local Sports Briefs

    April 17, 2014

  • racin 0416 Jennerstown Speedway gearing for May open

    Jennerstown Speedway released a very ambitious schedule on its website and continues to prepare for its 2014 reopening.
    The track is set to hold a practice day for drivers as well as an open house and media day on April 26.

    April 16, 2014 2 Photos

  • ‘Hawks already building toward next season

    Jason Spence used up his cell phone’s battery on a trip from Johnstown to his parents’ home in Nova Scotia, Canada.
    Once the Johnstown Tomahawks coach got to his destination, Spence had to get creative to secure cell service across the border.

    April 16, 2014

  • Pirates 0416 Dominant Cueto drops Pirates in matinee

    That playoff loss in Pittsburgh last year? Johnny Cueto never thought about it much. So getting a chance to shut out the Pirates in a rematch wasn’t any more special.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo