Featured Alumnus: Connor Kelly ’14
As one of two boys in a family of six children, Connor Kelly ’14 looked up to his older brother, Bronson ’11, but he also wanted to forge his own path. When it came time to attend high school, Connor began at Fairfield Prep to try something different from his brother, but even as a young boy recognized the value of the network Bronson had behind him at Avon Old Farms School.
“Coach Skip Flanagan was recruiting me, and I connected with him very quickly,” explained Connor. “He was my brother’s lacrosse coach, so he knew our family well, but when I met him, I had a sense for what a strong mentor he could be for me. So, my family and I ultimately made the decision that I should start at Avon.”
As a repeat-sophomore in his first few months on Avon’s campus, Connor began to learn what it means to lead his own life.
“The boarding lifestyle put me in charge of my day: I had to decide to seek out help, work hard at practice, and engage with my classmates around me … I always was aware that I was in the best school, but looking back, I can really appreciate the wealth of opportunities Avon provides its students.”
Over three seasons under Coach Flanagan, Connor shifted between attack and midfield, had successful turns as a defensive midfielder, and went on to lead the team in scoring as a junior and senior. He helped the Winged Beavers to two Founders League titles and was an all-New England honoree and Under Armour All American his senior year.
But life at Avon wasn’t all about lacrosse. Connor actually started his Avon career in the fall pre-season with Coach Kevin Driscoll on the football team, continued with it his junior year, and was a captain his senior year. As a senior, he led Avon to a league title and was the Founders League MVP.
While many may assume pro-sports were always the plan for an athlete like Connor Kelly, he says he never even presumed that he would go on to play in college.
“I had been playing lacrosse since the third grade, but I was never the best guy on the field,” he said. “The program at Avon under the leadership of Coach Flanagan and Coach Lee made me a student of the game and really stirred a passion inside me.”
Connor continued to explain that Avon’s program challenged him to play at a higher level than he had attempted before, and with the support of his teammates and coaches, he found his place in the game.
In 2014 it was once again time for Connor to evaluate what his next move would be, and this time he found a home at the University of Maryland.
“Again, I had seen my brother excel, but I wanted to go my own way,” he said. “While Bronson went to Johns Hopkins, I joined their rivals—the Terrapins.”
At Maryland, Connor embodied what it means to be a student-athlete, studying economics and juggling practice, workouts, and games.
“Being a student-athlete is a full-time job that demands you take it seriously,” he continued. “I did feel like I was one step ahead of some of my teammates because of my Avon experience—living on campus wasn’t new; capitalizing on the free time in my day to get everything done wasn’t new; and actively seeking out help when I needed it from the faculty wasn’t either. In all, the process was a challenge, but it highlighted that hard work pays off.”
A review of his profile on the Terrapins lacrosse website proves that Connor worked hard. His honor roll of achievements include:
• 2018 Team Captain
• 2018 Tewaaraton Award Finalist (Top-5)
• 2x First Team All-America (2018, 2017)
• 3x NCAA All-Tournament Team (2018, 2017, 2016)
• 3x Big Ten All-Tournament Team (2018, 2017, 2016)
• 2x First Team All-Big Ten (2018, 2017)
• 2018 First Team All-America (USILA, Media)
• 2018 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year
• 2017 First Team All-America (USILA, Media)
• 2017 Big Ten Tournament Most Valuable Player
He was selected as one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, which annually honors the top male and female college lacrosse player in the United States. During his last season, Connor wore Maryland’s #1 jersey - a major honor, as the No. 1 jersey is assigned to the player who embodies performance and leadership on the offensive side of the field.
As Connor worked through his college career, he continued to think about his future, his career, and what his next moves might be. With a degree in economics and an interest in finance and business, he considered a move to New York City.
“Growing up in Easton, we were right on the city’s doorstep,” he said. “I was envisioning a life in the financial district working in an office. But, that changed when I played on Team USA the summer of my junior year.”
Connor was surrounded by talented players, some of whom had turned their love of lacrosse into a full-time job.
“I have always believed in doing what you love, and I knew that I loved lacrosse … the experience with Team USA showed me that I could do it. I could play professionally.”
For almost a year, Connor has done just that. He moved to San Diego and plays for the Seals with the National Lacrosse League (NLL) where he continues to sport the No. 1 jersey. Just last week, he was named NLL’s ‘Rookie of the Week.’ He also plays for the Premier Lacrosse League’s Whipsnakes, a new league that just started last summer, where he donned his #40.
While the sport has Connor playing two seasons—indoor December through May, and outdoor June through September—he still has carved out time to pass along the lessons he’s learned to the next generation of lacrosse players.
“CK1 Lacrosse is my private business that I work through to partner with club programs across the country,” he said. “I’ve learned so much at each level of playing in my life. Working at camps and clinics gives me the opportunity to pass along the fundamentals of the game while inspiring a passion in other young players.”
While Connor is riding the roller coaster of his young career now, his end goal remains clear and simple: “I want to be the best player I can be and the best person I can be. I’ve found a way to focus on what I love, and I feel blessed every day because of that.”
Earlier this month, Connor found himself close to home during his professional travels and made a point to stop by his old stomping grounds at Avon Old Farms School.
“I’m excited to be back on campus because I haven’t been able to get here in the last five years since graduating,” he said.
During his visit, Connor sat down to talk with Avon’s current lacrosse players to share some words of wisdom before working with them on Ryan Field.
“The game of lacrosse can teach you so many life lessons if you let it. It’s shown me how to solve problems on and off the field, how to be a teammate and a leader. But I don’t think that was going to happen at any school. The sense of unity and family that exists at Avon is exceptional. Avon taught me that everyone is important, and we all have an important story to tell.”
Connor also encouraged the young players always to be willing to learn.
“You have so many opportunities here, and so many caring faculty and coaches who are willing to help you out—don’t blow it doing something stupid, or ignore it because you think you know better,” he said. “I continue to learn every day, and that only helps me grow as a person. Avon made me who I am by giving me the support and confidence I needed to pursue my true passion. That’s been the key to it all.”