Connor Wedington kept badgering Keith Ross to watch his highlight tape. Just one time.
Between working on the Sumner High School football team’s game plan for that upcoming week, running practice and the myriad of Ross’ coaching duties, watching a fumble-prone freshman running back’s highlight tape sat near the bottom on his list of priorities.
But one day, at last, Ross sat with his son, Luke, and hit play.
“My dad got so mad at the freshman coach,” said Luke Ross, who is now Sumner’s junior quarterback. “They didn’t tell him how good this kid was.”
Now Wedington enters his senior year already committed to the University of Washington, where he plans to enroll early. And Wedington is a big reason why sixth-ranked Sumner is considered a 4A state title contender after being a 2A school three years ago and a 3A school for the past two years.
“Every day he does something that amazes me,” Luke Ross said. “It’s hard to believe, but from last year to now — he’s improved so much. I didn’t think that was possible to improve that much from how good he already was.”
Wedington accumulated 2,366 all-purpose yards on last year’s 3A South Puget Sound League title team, while splitting carries with Josh Riley, who has graduated.
Now it’s Wedington’s backfield. And the senior — with a 4.48-second 40-yard dash and a college future secure — has every reason to turn into a big-headed showoff.
“I hate when people say I’m cocky. That’s my biggest pet peeve,” Wedington said. “It really gets on my nerves. That makes me more mad than when someone says I’m overrated. I don’t care if people say that. If people want to think I’m overrated, you can think what you want.
“But cocky? Arrogant? That gets me going.”
It’s been quite the contrary, actually.
Wedington entered Sumner’s program as a quiet worker, seeking to be first at finishing wind sprints but last at speaking.
“Last year, he didn’t really talk that much, it was more like ‘get moving,’ or ‘do your job’ kind of stuff,” Sumner offensive lineman Jacob Clark said. “But now he’s coming up with speeches and he’s got something planned out to say. He’s just a true leader.”
Wedington has since become one of the Spartans’ team captains. Many of his teammates flock to his basement between two-a-days because he has four televisions with Xbox and PlayStation video-game consoles at each.
It’s the Spartans’ hangout. Some play “Madden” and “NBA 2K,” some are sleeping on his couch despite music blasting, others dig into the truckload of food his mom prepared.
Life is good now that Wedington doesn’t have to share the basement with his brother, Tristan, who is a defensive back at Central Washington University.
“Now it’s all mine,” Wedington said.
The space is decorated with Wedington’s shoe collection. They were all he asked for when he was younger, and he admits he used to spend an “insane” amount of time hunting for the right shoes, and spent about all the money he earned working at a local Italian restaurant to buy more shoes. He says he believes he could sell one pair for $600.
How many shoes does he own?
“Jordans or shoes?” Wedington asks. “I have like 17 pairs of Jordans and 22 pairs of shoes.”
But Wedington said his priority has since shifted to football.
His love for the sport was instilled by his father, Donovan, a football player who stopped playing after a motorcycle accident in his senior year in high school.
“My dad, he would tell stories of his practices, and how he would have no blockers and 11 guys would line up on kickoff and the coach would say, ‘If you guys don’t get Wedington, you are all running gassers,’ ” Connor Wedington said. “Just him and 11 guys running at him.”
Wedington’s cousin, Jordan Greene, plays on Clemson’s baseball team.
He also has two little sisters, who weren’t too shy to yell out “Connie, Connie!” when Wedington competed among the top high school football recruits in the nation at the University of Oregon for The Opening, a five-day showcase held in July.
“Everyone was looking at me and I’m like, ‘Yep, those are my little sisters,’ ” Wedington said, laughing.
Sumner ran undefeated through the 3A SPSL last year before losing to Bishop Blanchet in the first round of the state playoffs. The Spartans were leading 21-7 at halftime.
Few teams get a second chance to return so many players and try to make it right. Keith Ross said he learned more as a coach from that game than from any other, and added that this year’s team is the most talented he’s had as he enters his 16th year at Sumner.
But it’s not the most cocky team — far from it.
“All these players see a UW commit and they might be timid to come talk to me,” Wedington said. “But I used to be that little freshman looking up to the seniors, too. I just want to use my platform to help people.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677