SALT LAKE CITY — Conroy Black has learned that life is often a series of trades. In order to get something, you have to give up something else.
In recent years, Black has elected to exchange his soccer cleats and track spikes. He’s also decided to give up living near warm, sandy beaches in California, Florida and Jamaica for the snow-covered mountain peaks surrounding Salt Lake City, all in the pursuit of a football career.
Blessed with great speed that has translated into a 4.35 clocking in the 40-yard dash, Black has earned a starting job at cornerback in his third and final year with the Ute football team. After making a series of trades to get to this point in his athletic career, the senior is “ready to go out there and show what I can do.”
While spending some of his early years in his parents’ native country of Jamaica, the first sport Black played was soccer. However, as Black approached his middle school years and moved to Florida, he discovered football.
“I started playing football around the sixth grade,” Black recalled. “My whole family is Jamaican, so my first sport was soccer, which is very popular in that country. Then my cousin told me that I should just go try to play football. So, I signed up for the Little League team and just went out there, and from then on I’ve loved football.
“When I first started, I played running back,” Black continued. “I was always so fast they just gave me the ball. My first year was kind of tough, but my second year I had a breakout year and I did really well. I played running back and safety all throughout Little League, and when I got to high school I played corner. Since then, that is the only position I’ve played. I was always the taller, lanky kid that was just fast. Even when I was at running back, I was one of the tallest kids on the team.”
Black’s college options began to open up in 2005. That year he was a member of the Everglades High School (Miramar, Fla.) football team that won the 6A District II championship. Black was named second-team all-state, and accumulated 13 interceptions in three years. He also lettered in track, giving him collegiate opportunities in two sports.
Black elected to attend Fullerton College in California where he was a team captain in football and all-conference in track.
As a sophomore in 2008, Black had 17 solo tackles, returned an interception for a touchdown and had three pass breakups. His team made it to the SoCal Championship semifinals. On the track, Black recorded an impressive time of 10.3 seconds in the 100 meters and clocked in at 20.98 seconds in the 200.
As rewarding as it was being successful in two sports, the overall experience was difficult for Black.
“It was hard, but it wasn’t just because I was doing multiple sports,” he shared. “I was so far away from home and I was in junior college, so that aspect of it was hard. But I did well and it turned out pretty good for me.”
Even though Black joked he’s not as fast as Jamaican world-class sprinter Usain Bolt, he also claimed, “If I wanted to take track seriously, I definitely could.”
Black drew the interest of a few top-tier track programs while at Fullerton College in addition to receiving several football scholarship offers. After sorting out all of his opportunities, Black decided to join the Utes and hasn’t looked back.
“Football was always my best sport and my first passion,” Black explained. “That’s why I went with football. I definitely miss track, I miss running and competing, and I know how good I could be. But, I made a decision and now I have to live with it. No regrets.”
While deciding which sport to pursue was pretty clear-cut, deciding where to go was a different story.
“By the middle of my (last) season I only had a couple schools come look at me,” Black recalled. “But toward the end, that’s when I had a lot of schools coming at me and it got kind of hectic. Utah kind of came in late, but they were one of the early latecomers and that was the year they won the Sugar Bowl.”
The Utes’ No. 2 finish in the AP poll after winning the 2009 Sugar Bowl certainly helped Black decide to become a Ute, but so, too, did his recruitment by Aaron Roderick and Utah’s track record of sending defensive backs to the next level.
“I felt that out of all the coaches, (Coach Roderick) was being the most honest with me, and I really loved their defense. I knew they played a man-type defense, and that is what I played in high school. So, I knew that fit me well. I also knew a lot of their defensive backs had success in the NFL, and that was one of the main reasons I ended up picking Utah. It was a great choice.”
After redshirting his first year at Utah in 2009, Black went on to play in all 13 games of the 2010 season and was frequently the first defensive substitute. He racked up 19 tackles with one sack, three pass breakups and an interception.
This year, he has started every game at right corner.
“It’s great starting this year,” Black said. “Last year we had some veteran corners that I was vying for playing time with. (Lamar) Chapman won the starting job over me in camp, so I just played my role and took advantage of that. This year I was ready for the moment. I wasn’t nervous at all.”
With Utah joining the Pac-12 this season, Black is excited about not only showing what he can do, but also playing against the high-caliber teams in that conference.
“Playing in the Pac-12 is fun,” Black said with a grin. “I love it. I love these types of games, the competition. This is where we are supposed to be, anyways, and we are doing good. We just have to keep it going.
“Before it even started, I was really looking forward to this season,” Black continued. “But when you have Coach Whit (Kyle Whittingham) as your coach, you have to take it one game at a time. You have to look forward to every game because any game could be your last. Every game is a big game, every game is a Pac-12 caliber game. I look forward to every game, every Saturday.”
With each passing day he still knows he made the right decision.
“I think it is yet to come, honestly. I love playing here," he said. "It has worked out good for me. I’ve had my ups and downs — everyone does — but it’s my senior year and I think I am in the right position. I am just trying to do the best I can.”
Andrea Wilson is a Utah Athletics Communications Assistant.
Copyright 2016, Deseret News Publishing Company