Prairie View A&M junior quarterback Trazon Connley wasn’t much different than most college freshmen when he arrived on The Hill in 2018. The Duncanville product, in his mind, was ready to start immediately. It didn’t quite work out that way.
In fact, it has taken four years, a coaching change, an undergraduate degree and sitting behind three different starters before Connley is finally getting his chance to be the Panthers’ season-opening starter.
“I’ve been waiting for so long, for so long,” said Connley, who is now a graduate student. “It’s a narrative on me that I’ve got to go change. It’s a lot of everything and there is a lot on my shoulders that I feel like I have to go change.
“I feel like now is the time for me to go get it done. There is no waiting, there are no second chances. The time is now.”
Indeed it is.
Connley will at long last take the field as the true starter when the Panthers take on rival Texas Southern in the Labor Day Classic at Blackshear Field on Saturday. Across from him will be the Tigers’ heralded sophomore quarterback Andrew Body, who did get a chance to prove himself as a starter as a true freshman last season.
This is the opportunity the ultra-competitive Connley has been waiting for.
“The buildup is good because they do have a good quarterback,” he said. “It’s a competition there because they have a good quarterback who has been tearing up the SWAC a little bit and he has a little bit of buzz going on.”
But now Connley is ready to make a name for himself, too. He has always had the confidence that he can make plays, but the opportunity to shine was limited to starts here and there and sporadic playing opportunities as he sat behind Jalen Morton, TJ Starks and Jawon Pass.
Instead of expressing disappointment in having to wait his turn, Connley prefers to focus on what he has learned from all three and what he ultimately will take into this starting opportunity. From Morton, he learned more about the passing game, he saw how Starks utilized his running ability to keep defenses on their heels and from Pass, who transferred in last summer from Louisville, Connley picked up his leadership ability.
“So I was like, `Okay, cool. Let me take all of these different aspects in,’” said Connley. “Now I’m a better leader. When I do get out in space, I do know how to use my legs.
“A lot of people probably think I’m more of a runner, but I’m actually not a runner, not a runner at all. If I have to, I have to. Then from J. Mo it was just being more precise.”
It’s all helped to transform Connley into the quarterback the defending SWAC West champs can be excited about this season. Head coach Eric Dooley has moved over to Southern, but new PVAMU coach Bubba McDowell retained most of the staff including offensive coordinator Mark Frederick, who has watched Connley progress since his freshman season.
Connley started the final three games of the 2019 season when Morton got hurt, then he also made three starts during the COVID spring season in 2020 and last season the coaching staff made the decision to bring him in in hopes of generating a spark during the SWAC Championship loss to Jackson State.
“So he has some experience,” Frederick said. “He just learned behind some guys and then [Pass] came in.
“Now he gets his shot. It’s his team.”
Not surprisingly, Frederick believes there is no ceiling on how good Connley can be.
“I tell him all of the time, you can make yourself some money if you continue to grow and do things that you are doing,” Frederick said. “He has had a great camp; very, very efficient with the ball. I grade them hard. I’m real tough on the quarterbacks and he is grading out above average, and that is tough to do with me. I like where he is right now.”