ATHENS, Ga. — Chris Conley had a good excuse for missing a meeting of the NCAA Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee over the weekend in Indianapolis.
He was busy catching a touchdown pass against Auburn and making his first career start.
Conley has a larger role for the Georgia offense as the top slot receiver now that Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett are lost with torn ACLs, but the sophomore already had plenty on his plate.
Not only does he represent the Southeastern Conference on that 31-person NCAA advisory committee, but he’s the only player on the 24-person NCAA Football Issues Committee, which is designed to recommend policies and procedures in the best interest of student-athletes like the new kickoff and loss-of-helmet rules that took effect this season.
“He always has been very impressive and is someone that certainly exemplifies everything that a University of Georgia student-athlete would like to become,” said Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity, also is in his first year on the football issues committee. “He’s very popular, he’s very involved and he really gets the big picture.”
Conley was selected to be part of a group that includes athletic directors such as McGarity, Wisconsin’s Barry Alvarez and Oklahoma’s Joe Castiglione and football coaches David Cutcliffe, of Duke, and Butch Jones, of Cincinnati.
“I’ll be able to have a little bit of perspective and bring some things to the table on that,” Conley said.
“I’m really honored to be able to be there in that kind of position.”
Conley plans to speak to teammates and athletes at other schools to determine the most pressing issues he can bring to the attention of the committee.
“I always like to see progress and voice people’s opinion if they can’t voice them,” Conley said.
Conley credits his parents, who now live in Dallas, Ga., with teaching him about serving others. His mother, Christina, is a teacher and his father, Charles, is retired from the Air Force.
Conley was born in Turkey and grew up in Southern California near Edwards Air Force Base.
Conley considers himself a “people person,” and said politics is a possibility for him one day.
“I could see him being a president or CEO,” receiver Malcolm Mitchell said.
Conley said it’s more likely he’d get into teaching or coaching. He’s a member of Georgia’s Leadership Academy, which includes some 50 chosen on academic and athletic success, leadership and campus and community service.
Back on the field, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Conley had four catches for 32 yards, including a six-yard touchdown catch on Georgia’s opening drive in the 38-0 win at Auburn Saturday night.
“He stepped in really nicely,” coach Mark Richt said. “We had confidence in him going in, but we have even more confidence now that he’s ready to make plays.”
Conley said Georgia knew that in Auburn’s red-zone coverages, if the Bulldogs could get the safety to move, he could get behind the linebackers.
He said that’s what happened and offensive coordinator Mike Bobo “dialed it up perfectly,” on the touchdown.
Murray’s throw was a little bit behind Conley, Bobo said.
“That was a tremendous catch, I thought, for that first touchdown,” Richt said. “Easily could have been dropped. Turned his body, running that seam type of route, a little quick slant type of route. Had to almost turn completely around to catch it on the move. So it was a great start for the night.”
And a good start for Conley as a starter, showing that he can make noise on the field even while having much to do off it.
“Just real proud of him,” Bobo said. “He’s one of the hardest working kids on the football team that has a great attitude and continues to work day in and day out.”
Conley has 11 catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns this season. Those numbers figure to grow faster in the remaining games.
“It’s a lesson in patience when you have to sit behind older guys,” Conley said. “I’m thankful for them. It’s unfortunate that they’re out but when they’re out, it’s time to make plays and time to step up. I’m glad our coaches gave me an opportunity to do that.”