In the class of 2013’s graduation video, Connor Stalions appears after a slow stream of over 700 students from Lake Orion (Mich.) High School reach surnames starting with “S.” One of those involuntary small roars at graduations can be heard. Two male administrators appear eager to greet Stalions as professors and administrators stand up to greet graduates whom they may have become acquainted with. One gives his diploma to him. They both give him hugs. They take pictures with him flanked.
At Michigan, Connor Stallion was certain to leave his mark. He’s got.
At nearly eighteen, his talent and energy are already screaming, so he’s off to the Naval Academy and life. Presented at the Michigan Capitol to 30 students from three counties by the office of then-congressman Mike Rogers “to recognize, honor, and acknowledge their exemplary citizenship and academic excellence throughout their high school careers,” he is one of eight recipients from his county of the “Medal of Merit.” That academic year, the Orion Township legislature declared him to be “a young man of great maturity.” Stalions’ supervisor, Chris Barnett, agreed.
That specific class of 2013 is getting together for their ten-year reunion later this month in Orion Township, the former resort town on the northern border of the Detroit suburbs. The grads will have a topic of discussion at that reunion that will stand on its own among any 10-year reunion topics. They may discuss Stalions, a classmate from Lake Orion High School who graduated from the Naval Academy and has gone on to become one of the most colorful and rakish characters in the 154-year history of college football, despite the fact that his former teammates, coaches, and administrators have not responded to letters or calls asking for summaries of his personality. The reunion will take place in the context of Michigan, where the University of Michigan football team’s colors—the maize and blue—matter greatly in one way or another, as well as the Michigan sign-stealing scandal, in which the Stalions is a major player.
Brewer: College football deserves the scandal that Michigan’s sign-stealing fiasco merits.
“I anticipate it will be a topic,” but only one topic among many, according to a classmate and reunion planner. In a class this size, many students might not have known Stalions. The classmate added, “I recall he always had dreams of joining the military. A wonderful child. wonderful family. An amazing Lake Orion family Additionally, “he was just, like, a really pleasant, happy person in my handful of interactions with him.”
The name “Connor Stalions” has been making headlines around the nation for the past two weeks, with commentators praising the moniker’s classic vibe. The name first appeared in reports identifying the Stalions as the subject of an intricate plan to scout potential opponents in violation of NCAA regulations.
After ESPN revealed that the Stalions had purchased spies’ tickets to nearly thirty games featuring current or prospective Michigan opponents, the moniker began to be ridiculed. The fact that Stalions’ LinkedIn profile briefly stated his military prowess at “identifying the opponent’s most likely course of action and most dangerous course of action and identifying and exploiting critical vulnerabilities” after promptly deleting his social media accounts has only served to fuel the wink. And when images of Stalions wearing sunglasses appeared on the visiting sidelines during a night game on September 1 at Michigan State, when the rival Spartans met Central Michigan, it acquired a legendary quality.
He was a former Marine captain who held the job of analyst before he resigned on Friday night. This was a relatively new function in the sport, as it put him outside the official coaching staff but still in close proximity to them on a daily basis. According to the Lake Orion Review in 2011, the man, 28, was a member of the powerlifting team at the age of 15, and he also played basketball for the Lake Orion High Dragons. According to his “Medal of Merit” bio, he volunteered at Grace Centers of Hope in nearby Pontiac, which supports “those afflicted with homelessness, addiction, and abuse.” (Grace Centers stated that it was unable to confirm his involvement because none of its current employees were present in the early part of the previous decade.)
This young man had the extraordinary capacity to soar before the age of thirty to the lofty places seen in images, despite seemingly giving up football early in high school and volunteering for the Navy football program as a midshipman: the Stalions as friends to players like NFL linebacker Frank Clark, the Stalions in the Michigan locker room with the 2021 Big Ten trophy, the Stalions with 2021 Heisman Trophy runner-up Aidan Hutchinson, and the Stalions on this Michigan sideline and that other Michigan sideline close to the major coaches. He is a man whose roots in Michigan fandom go back before he was even born. He makes $55,000 a year and has a $485,000 mansion in Ann Arbor registered in his name.
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Both parents really like their Wolverines, including a mother who was recently named middle school teacher of the year, much to the acclaim of online reviewers.
His mother Kelly tweeted on November 20, six days before Michigan defeated its fiercest rival, 45–23, in a game that is currently being examined for hints about Michigan’s apparent awareness of Ohio State’s warning flags. Although she has tweeted positive things about several Buckeyes, she also said, “That block M has always looked just right on you,” on her son’s 25th birthday.
Two months before Jim Harbaugh infamously signed on, on October 25, 2014, after Michigan fell 35-11 against Michigan State to drop to 3-5 in a 5-7 season, his father, Brock, tweeted, “I’m serious.” Could someone with authority at Michigan take action in this regard? This is getting too much for me. Kindly. “Told the Mrs. that the only way we renew our season tickets is if Harbaugh comes,” he wrote two months later. He then used the goofy hashtags “#down $1,200” and “#needaloan” in response.
Following the announcement of the probe, his mother shared this analysis from a Michigan fan on October 19: “A summary of the current situation is as follows: A few teams claimed that Michigan was aware of their placards, which is completely acceptable. The NCAA is looking into whether Michigan deployed staff members in person to steal team signs because they detest Harbaugh. This is completely insane.
Connor Stalions stated this in January 2022 on the website Soldiers to Sidelines, which named him its “coach of the month.” However, he hasn’t commented since his sudden fame: “I’ve had the dream of coaching football at Michigan my entire life. I gave up playing football in my junior year of high school to become a coach for my father’s eighth-grade squad. After high school, I chose to attend the Naval Academy, where I assisted as a student coach for the football team. Although I had always wanted to coach, my “why” was realigned when I was given the chance to do it at an early age. I wanted to coach for the victories, the Xs, and the Os going into that experience. After that, I developed wonderful relationships with the players on that team and was able to realign my internal coaching purpose by acting as though I were their older brother. Based on a review of some of his texts, Sports Illustrated revealed that he maintains a 550-plus-page coaching manifesto and that his goal is to coach Michigan. During his time in the Navy, he visited Michigan frequently in an effort to support the football program as much as possible.
The NCAA investigation started after a company collected data from computers in Michigan.
Along with having “left an impression on the USNA coaching staff,” Stallions “worked tirelessly to help and learn from everyone in the building, including recruiting coordinator Sean Magee, who fortuitously became an assistant AD [athletic director] at Michigan” (now serving as chief of staff for the Chicago Bears). These details are found in the same Soldiers to Sidelines story.
Author Josh Adelman shared a detailed account from Stalions of another event from 2013 in that same piece: the Nov. 22 Navy-San Jose State game in San Jose. In triple overtime, Navy prevailed 58-52, and the great Keenan Reynolds broke the NCAA record with seven rushing touchdowns as a quarterback.
Adelman believed that the Stalions identified a critical period in that match where the Navy made a strategic error. Navy had a 31–30 advantage and was in San Jose State territory when all of San Jose State’s timeouts were used. According to the Soldiers to Sidelines report, a Navy “receiver” streamed in for a touchdown instead of pausing along the way to allow the Navy to run out the clock. According to the account, Stalions understood better, even though the Navy sideline was gloating. The touchdown gave Navy a 38–30 lead, but it gave the Spartans enough time to score and force OT, putting them at risk of losing, being hurt, and becoming overly tired. After that, Stalions sent Magee a report that “received eye-opening approval,” according to Stalions’ statement to Adelman. After that, longtime coach Ken Niumatalolo “saw the report and immediately had Connor brief the entire coaching staff.”
With 2:43 left and Navy at the San Jose State 20-yard line, San Jose State called their final timeout, according to the official game play-by-play. The eight plays in possession culminated with a 20-yard Reynolds rush that was legitimately the source of the disagreement. Six coaches who worked at the Naval Academy when Stallion was a midshipman could not recall any such report or meeting, which may have seemed remarkable that a first-year student would address a well-established football staff under the direction of a head coach in his seventh season.
According to long snapper Michael Pifer’s comments from 2018, the Navy family does appear to be familiar with the Stalions. When asked what the optimal number of teams for the college football playoff was in a typical Q&A session with the athletic department, Pifer said, “8. Connor Stalions convinced me.”
Inquiring about memories of Stalions as a student and athlete, Lake Orion football coach Chris Bell, who played quarterback at the school in the 1980s, returned as a coach, and eventually led the Dragons to their first state title in 2010, declined to comment.
A representative wrote, “Mr. Bell forwarded your email to me as the district spokesperson, working in the superintendent’s office.” “Our district’s media procedure allows our employees to talk about the good things that are occurring in our district, with the goal of showcasing the excellent, comprehensive education that our kids get. Despite your good intentions, Mr. Bell will not be able to respond to your tale because your request does not meet that purpose.