Zac Aron and Seth Pollock, 23 Sports

Connor Bazelak didn’t always know if he was he was going to get the chance to play at a Power Five school. The 2019 Mizzou quarterback commit from Dayton, Ohio hails from Alter High School, a school with a football program known largely for two things: winning and running the wishbone offense. While the winning part is advantageous for any QB looking to get noticed by college coaches, running the wishbone takes away the opportunity to put up the big numbers other QBs competing for offers might. Bazelak threw only 11 touchdowns in his junior campaign. But once he got the opportunity to show his talent at QB camps, stats didn’t stop him from receiving offers from some of the top programs in the nation.

Bazelak talks about that, among other things, with MUTV execs Zac Aron and Seth Pollock.

Points of interest:

2:03-Connor steps into the shoes of a coach and makes a scouting report on himself.

3:00-Connor talks about that wishbone offense and why he never considered transfering.

5:28- He talks about his “gut feeling” to become a Tiger.

8:52- Why Connor doesn’t feel that nervous to go so far from home, and why he doesn’t feel any pressure in potentially replacing Drew Lock, at least not yet.

13:22-Why Connor believes in Barry Odom, Derek Dooley, and the rest of the Tiger staff.

16:39-Connor talks about his aspirations outside of football.

18:45-Connor has two favorite NFL teams, and it’s a pretty rare combination.

Lightly edited transcript-

Seth Pollock-I’m Seth Pollock and I’m joined here with fellow MUTV exec Zac Aron. With the 2018 college football season approaching, Mizzou fans are excited to watch Drew Lock and the rest of the team in the upcoming season. However, come 2019 Mizzou will have a new starting quarterback. Connor Bazelak of Alter High School committed to the Tigers in June to compete for the job. Connor has been nice enough to give us at MUTV some time to talk about how it feels to be a Tiger. Connor, thanks for agreeing to join us today.

Connor Bazelak-Yeah, no problem. Great being on.

Zac Aron-So, Connor, you committed to the University of Missouri back in June. Over a month later you can look back on the whole experience. How was the recruiting process for you?

CB-I think the recruiting process went well for me. Just, I think, in total about a year, ‘cause I got my first offer last June and I committed this past June, so I thought it was a really good experience.

ZA- Awesome. So do you have any cool, fun, crazy stories from the recruiting process?

CB-I don’t think there’s been one in particular. I think there were a lot, just kind of, when I went on my visits, just talking to the coaches, there were always some good stories that they would tell us, just ‘cause a lot of the college coaches know everyone and there’s just a bunch of connections and there were definitely a lot of stories that were funny and good memories.

SP-So you say good memories and some stories they told you, was there any big negative recruiting or did the coaches keep it pretty positive?

CB-I would say there were some visits I went on coaches kind of bashed on some other coaches, but nothing too bad.

SP-And it all ended up alright, obviously.

CB-Yeah.

ZA- So, you’re gonna step into their shoes and sort of make a scouting report on yourself, what really would that look like?

CB- Yeah, I think looking at my game I think I’m definitely a pro-style quarterback with the ability to move around and make plays with my feet if I need to. I think I’m very accurate on passes. I think I manage games well, kind of reading defenses and making sure I make the right decisions on every play. I think I’m just  kind of a player that fits into Missouri’s Style. kind of what Drew lock does. Kind of throw the ball around but able escape pressure when I need to.

SP- Yeah, that’s awesome. So you talk about being a pro-style quarterback. Of course for years now you’ve run the wishbone at Alter. How has that affected you?

CB-Some college coaches that I talked to kind of saw it as a negative just ‘cause I hadn’t thrown the ball as much as some other kids. I think to coaches that were most interested in me kind of saw it as a positive just because I’m always reading defenses. I’m always thinking at the line before plays, and it also gives me a chance to show my athleticism  just because I’m asked to run the ball some too. Also with our program we’ve always been a pretty traditionally winning team so I think that’s always helped me in the recruiting process.

SP-I’m actually from Kettering and I know how Alter is like, Alter’s always the big dog up there.

CB-Yep, yep.

SP-After talking to coaches, did you ever feel like, “Aw man”, maybe earlier in the process before you had as many offers, did you ever feel like, “This might impact my ability to play at the next level where I want to play”?

CB-Yeah, no doubt. Like I think, my freshmen and sophomore year, I was kind of thinking it might hurt me just because I might not have the stats, or as many throws as some other kids, but I think once I just started going to camps, the coaches didn’t really pay attention to the stats. I think they just paid attention to my potential and my talent and what I can do with like my throwing motion and like, as a quarterback.

ZA-Did you ever consider, during the time you were questioning it, did you ever consider transferring high schools?

CB-No, I never considered transferring, just because I knew there had been a bunch of quarterbacks that had played in college from Alter and I know the coaches had connections with the colleges, and with my talent I could play collegintilly.

ZA-Perfect.

SP-Yeah, so, it obviously ended up working out for you. And you got some big name offers. You got an offer from Georgia. I heard an interview where you talk about – you said you choose between Mizzou, Duke and North Carolina. What made you choose Mizzou over those other schools?

CB-Yeah, I think choosing Missouri, it was kind of just like a gut feeling. When I visited there in March, and I felt just really comfortable there with all the coaches. That was our first visit there, just kind of get a feel for things. And when I came back on the official visit I just felt really welcomed, felt like they really needed me, so definitely a place where I felt welcomed.

SP-So when you first heard Missouri what came to mind for you?

CB-Yeah, I always thought of Missouri as a team that kind of threw the ball around a lot, scored a lot of points. I knew they were in the SEC, just kind of joined the SEC. I knew once they offered, I knew they had a really good quarterback. But I never really like looked into their coaches or the school in general.

ZA-Yeah, so, you look up to, sort of, to Drew Lock in a way. Have you ever had any good conversations with him, or gotten any advice or tips from him?

CB-I’ve talked to him some, just when I was on the official visit. I kinda hung out with him and Paul Adams, who was my host. So we talked some and it was good kind of getting a feel of what he was like and kind of what he is.

SP-So, including Drew Lock, Mizzou, especially in fairly recent history, has had a lot of really good quarterbacks. And Mizzou, it’s funny especially coming from Alter, Mizzou’s had a couple good quarterbacks from Ohio including Maty Mauk, won a couple SEC East Championships, Brad Smith. Do you feel any special connection, especially with the Ohio thing, but just in general? Of course, excluding the state of Ohio, Chase Daniel and Blaine Gabbert, so many great quarterbacks. Have you ever, have you already felt a sense of brotherhood with them?

CB-Yeah, I think so. I think it’s, anywhere where you can go where there’s a history of great quarterbacks is always good, ‘cause you know that the school kind of produces NFL quarterbacks. And, you know, that’s obviously my dream to one day be in the NFL. For there to be history at the school is always good. It’s definitely reassuring to know that.

SP-When you decided to commit to Mizzou, I’m sure Missouri wasn’t the only place you were really, really considering. How hard was it to turn down some of these other schools?

CB-Yeah, it was really hard. It was definitely the hardest decision of my life, just because it’s such a big decision and like you said I had some other really good options. And I think I made the right decision, obviously, and couldn’t be happier about it.

ZA-Now, did you feel, do you feel, nervous about any of it, coming to Missouri, coming three states away, just for football and just for your life in general?

CB-I don’t think so. I think there’s some, obviously anyone going to college seven hours away from home is probably going to be nervous about being so far, but I don’t think so with me ‘cause I’ve always – with the other two schools that I was kind of looking into, Duke and North Carolina, those are pretty far away too, so I was always going to be about seven hours away from home. Which was never really a big factor in my decision. I always thought I was going to go a little far away from home.

SP-I know you had talked some with Ohio State and met with a couple of the coaches there. But was there something special, do you think, in the idea of maybe going a little farther away. You said you always thought you might end up a little farther away. Was there like any particular reason for that, or did you feel like “Hey, maybe I could go somewhere and start my own legacy”?

CB-Yeah, I – I’d say kinda, once I got my first couple offers I wasn’t really looking into where I wanted to go, like geographically, but then kinda couple months in I kinda started thinking that I wanted to maybe go south or to the east coast. I just kinda – I don’t know. Just kinda a feeling that I wanted to maybe get away, and kinda – yeah, like you said – kinda start something new. Kinda start my own legacy, yeah.

SP-Awesome. So, we’ve obviously talked some about Drew Lock. But, the other side. Of course there’s a million positives like getting to talk to him and of course all the Mizzou people in the NFL and the Mizzou quarterbacks playing professional football. But, at the same time, he just broke the SEC record for touchdown passes in a season. And there’s a lot of pressure that’ll come with following him up, whether it’s you or somebody else. How – Do you feel a sense of pressure of “Man, I gotta follow up one of the greatest, even at Mizzou, but even really in the SEC, to ever do it.”

CB-Yeah, I don’t think that – I don’t feel much pressure yet. I’d say not yet.

SP-Okay.

CB-I don’t know. We’ll see when I get there. But – we’ll see what kind of competing for the job, and I know they’ve got some other good quarterbacks there and that should be fun. Just to compete and see who follows him.

ZA-Yeah, you talked about coming up here. Are you planning on enrolling early for the spring semester so you can kind of be with the team early and go to all the spring practices and get to know everyone?

CB-I’m not sure yet. Just still kind of holding back on that decision. Hopefully have that decision soon. But I play basketball in my life and – this is a tough decision.

SP-Yeah, because this is your last chance to do something big in basketball and do something at Alter there too.

CB-Yeah, yep.

ZA-Just out curiosity, what position are you on the basketball team?

CB-I play guard. Like point guard, shooting guard.

SP-That’s interesting. I know Drew Lock played basketball too. He got some big offers. I believe Oklahoma offered Drew Lock in basketball. So I guess you’re kind of already in, already in the same kind of position that he was playing multiple sports and then playing football here at Mizzou.

So, coming here, I know the latter end of the Gary Pinkel era was extremely successful for Mizzou. And then Barry Odom took over in the 2016 season. His tenure kind of got off to a rough start with a 4-8 season, followed by the 1-5 start last year. There were some fans that were even thinking “It’s time to move on and start someplace new,” before of course the team had a really miraculous run to rip off six in a row and finish 7-6. How do you – I know, I’ve read about how Derek Dooley was a big part for you. How do you think that Odom, Dooley, and this entire staff – what convinces you, “Hey, these are the guys. If I go here I will win”?

CB-Yeah, I think it’s a combination of all the coaches on the staff that will work with me. Just ‘cause I think coach Dooley brings in the NFL mindset and the NFL mind to be able to run the offense that best fits the players, best fits what we can do to win. And then, coach Odom, I think brings intensity as a head coach. And I think, obviously he’s very competitive. And I see Missouri kind of on the upswing, and I think they’ll have a great year next year. And I’m really excited to kind of watch them this year, ‘cause I know what they have, and I know they can get it done.

SP-So, yeah, I know fans here are really hoping for that. Of course, Mizzou fans haven’t really seen a Derek Dooley offense. So far it was Josh Heupel, who then left to become the head coach at UCF. Is there anything Dooley said to do, or is there any interaction you had with him, where you’re like “Okay, this is the guy I’m going to trust the next four years of my life with. This is the guy who can get me to the NFL.”

CB-Yeah, I – from the first time talking to coach Dooley, I could tell he was very smart. Obviously he’s been involved in football for a while, from being a head coach in college to being in the NFL. So I know he’s been around and he knows what he’s doing.

He hasn’t really been like a quarterback coach ever, but I know just from his mind and what he can do with offense. I know him and coach (Austyn) Carta-Samuels, who helps with quarterbacks, I know that they can get quarterback ready for the NFL, so that was definitely a big part in my decision.

ZA-Yeah, obviously your end goal is making it to the NFL, but is there anything else, football or non-football related, that you want to gain out of your time at the University of Missouri?

CB-Yeah, I think I really want to be able get a good degree, make the most of my opportunities outside of football. Just in case the NFL doesn’t work out, I’ve got a plan and a good degree to be able to do something after football and be happy.

ZA-What do you plan on getting the degree in? Or do you not know yet?

CB-I’m planning on studying business.

SP-Okay. So, it was interesting looking at your offer list. You noticed, of course, the good football schools, but at the same time you noticed some very high academic schools. And even if football does work out, best case scenario you still have half your life, after the NFL, ahead of you. What do you want to do in business?

CB-That’s something I still haven’t really decided. I’m taking some classes at Alter right now. But I know I’ve always kind of been interested in business. Whether it’s kind of like sports management or like entrepreneurship, something along those lines.

ZA-Now, if you do go into sports management, or even entrepreneurship, would you focus mainly on football? Is that like your main sport that you like to watch and follow?

CB-Yeah, that’s something I’ve been thinking about lately, just kind of doing something involving football, ‘cause it’s the sport that I love and I could see myself doing it.

SP-And I’m sure, even after you leave here, and NFL career or whatever, you’re going to have even more connections with very, very successful people who can make whatever you want to have happen, happen. So, when you look at – I know you said you visited here twice, when you visited Mizzou, was there anything in Columbia, because I’m sure you spend a lot of time with the football team, but was there anything around Columbia that intrigued you, or you were like, “hey, that might be interesting to look at or to do when I become a student here”?

CB-Yeah, I know kind of when I was looking for colleges I kind of was always interested in going to a school that was kind of like a college town, kind of like their own little city. So I kind of love the college town atmosphere, with like the downtown area. I just think it’s like a great spot for like a college life.

SP-Did you explore downtown at all when you visited here?

CB-Yeah, I went downtown a little with some of the players.

ZA-So, what is your NFL team, like your dream team to play on?

CB-Growing up I always liked the Steelers.

SP-Really?! That’s an interesting choice for a kid from Kettering, Ohio.

CB-Yeah, well, Big Ben has always been my favorite quarterback. But then lately, I also like the Browns. Although not many people like both.

SP-That’s kind of an interesting one. If I was a Steelers fan I don’t know that I would say “Hey, I’m going to go root for the Browns now.”

CB-Yeah, well the Browns are so bad they’re kind of hard not to root for.

SP-They’re kind of on the upswing, though. You like the Baker pick?

CB-Not personally, but I mean, we’ll be fine. Got a great winning mindset.

SP-Who did you want them to take?

CB-I wanted them to take Josh Allen.

SP-Oh really. Okay, so you’re a Josh Allen guy?

CB-Yeah, I like him.

SP-Okay, okay. Of course, with recruiting being over now, you can kind of focus on the upcoming season. What kind of goals do you have for yourself personally and for Alter this year?

CB-Yeah, I think personally – I’m a captain of our team, so I think personally just being able to grow in leadership. You know, lead the team to victories. And then team goals, we lost to two of our rivals last year, so I think being able to come back this year and beat our rivals would be good. We got some big games on the schedule this year, and hopefully we can get past those and then make a run in the playoffs.

ZA-Absolutely. Is there anything you want to bring from your high school team to the University of Missouri to sort of share with them?

SP-Yeah, I think at Alter we kind of pride ourselves on toughness. So I think, bringing that to Missouri, I think I can kind of – I think kids from Alter have always been pretty tough and hard working, so I think I can bring that leadership and bring that hard working mentality to Missouri and help the team with that.

ZA-Do you have any questions for us? That’s really all we had for you.

CB-No, I’m good. Thank you.

ZA-Awesome. Well thank you very much. We look forward to seeing you when you come in a couple years.

SP-Yeah. Hopefully, you get those winning ways from Alter. Hopefully Mizzou and Alter both have a good year this year and maybe even the Browns. And next year you’ll be here winning big games in the SEC.

CB-Yep, sounds great.

SP-Awesome, Connor.

ZA-Thank you very much.

CB-No problem. Have a good day.

ZA-You too.