SALT LAKE CITY — He just might be the first Jamaican ever to play for the University of Utah football team, although his name sounds like it belongs to a country-western singer.
Conroy Black is a senior cornerback for the Utes and one of the fastest players on the team with his 4.35 speed.
Black is the only player with significant experience in a young defensive backfield for the Utes. He played outside corner about half the time last year, replacing Lamar Chapman when the Utes went to their nickel package and Chapman would slide over to nickel back.
This year he is slated to start along with junior Ryan Lacy, although cornerback coach Jay Hill said Mo Lee, Wykie Freeman and Reggie Topps will all see action in the backfield.
"I look forward to that — sometimes it throws your rhythm off when you're on and off the field," Black said. "When you know you're the guy and you know you're on the field, it's a bigger role and a bigger challenge for you. You've got to cherish the opportunity and show up."
Hill is happy with his five DBs, but especially to have some experience to go along with talent.
"He brings height and speed to the position," says Hill of Black. "He's got all the intangibles you can't coach."
With the Utes losing Brandon Burton to the NFL and Chapman to graduation, there has been concern about the lack of experience among the cornerbacks. However, Black doesn't see it.
"I know there's a big question about experience," he said. "But we're young and talented. We work hard, we listen and we give good effort as a group. We're doing really well right now."
In fact, through the first 13 practices of fall camp, Hill said he'd never had a group of cornerbacks so far along, although they have been inconsistent at times.
Black is originally from Miramar, Fla., where he had 13 interceptions in three years for Everglades High School. From there he headed west to Fullerton College, where he was a team captain for the Southern California Football Association champion team as well as all-conference on the track team.
He had offers from Pac-12 schools such as Oregon State and Colorado, but chose Utah, where he's enjoyed everything except the snow and cold weather he's experienced for the first time in his life.
"It is a big difference," he said with a laugh. "But I've adjusted pretty well."
Playing Pac-12 schools this year is something Black is looking forward to.
"It's very exciting, the perfect opportunity for me to go out there and show what I can do on the big stage," he said. "You always want better competition to bring the best out of you. It's definitely going to be fun."7 comments on this story
And what about his name? There aren't a lot of Conroys out there, particularly in college football.
"There's no story behind it," Black said with a shrug. "I'm Jamaican — that's just the name my parents chose for me."
For his senior season at Utah, Conroy Black hopes his name is one his opponents won't soon forget.