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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 29 2013

Shanley product McGovern earns starting job at Missouri

FARGO – It wasn’t as if Connor McGovern put on the pads at the University of Missouri his freshman year and dipped his toe in the water. Quite the contrary.

As a redshirt offensive lineman, he got the pleasure of trying to block Sheldon Richardson on a weekly basis.

“He’s fast, he’s strong and I was just trying to compete with him,” McGovern said.

Richardson was so fast, and so strong, that the New York Jets took him as the 13th overall pick in the NFL draft last Thursday.

As for McGovern?

He’s more than an honor student in agricultural economics. He’s faster and he’s stronger than he was coming out of Fargo Shanley High School and that is one reason he will be the starting right guard heading into fall camp.

McGovern won the job in spring football and was named the most improved offensive lineman over the 15 NCAA-allowable practices. He’s 305 pounds – and finally has a healthy shoulder that first surfaced his junior year in wrestling at Shanley.

It wasn’t much of a problem as a Deacon, but the more explosive athletes of a Southeastern Conference school weren’t as forgiving on the shoulder, which began popping out with some regularity.

“I was trying to be the tough guy wanting to play, so I didn’t tell anybody about it,” McGovern said. “It would slide out, I would stick my arm between my legs, give it a good pull and it would slide back in. I didn’t think there was anything wrong that.”

Not until a Missouri trainer witnessed him doing it one day. The diagnosis was a torn labrum and McGovern had surgery a year ago January. He missed spring football last year, but has made up for it this spring.

Listed No. 2 on the depth chart heading into spring, he figured he had a shot at the starting nod, but he also had to get the playbook down perfect and master some of the fundamentals.

And there was also a matter of the mental aspect of the game. He appeared in nine games last season in a backup role playing mostly on special teams.

“A lot of it was playing with more confidence, knowing I’m here for a reason and I can play with these guys,” McGovern said. “That led to better footwork and telling myself that I can do it.”

He was 275 pounds when he enrolled at Missouri as a freshman in 2011. A power lifter in high school, strength has never been an issue.

Richardson showed him there are other aspects to the game, however.

“Going against him was like going against the 13th overall pick,” he said. “You’re just humbling yourself because you know you’re not going to win very much. But it makes you a lot better.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia