Knoch lineman Shinsky taking time to make college decision

| Saturday, July 13, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Connor Shinsky isn't in a rush to make his college football decision. He wants to demonstrate, on the field, that he has Division-I talent before he makes a commitment.

“I'm thinking I might decide around midseason,” said Shinsky, who will be a senior at Knoch. “I'd like to let a couple of coaches see me play first.”

In an age when players sell themselves to high-ranking programs at prospect camps around the country while wearing shorts and sleeveless T-shirts, Shinsky wants to prove his worth in full pads.

He already has three Division I scholarship offers — from Kent State, Texas at El Paso and St. Francis (Pa.). More could be on the way.

“He is very focused on making this season his best because he is dead-set on playing football at the highest level possible,” Knoch coach Mike King said.

Agile for his size, the 6-foot-6, 260-pounder who plays offensive tackle and defensive end is yet another hefty lineman to come out of Knoch. Every year, the roster swells with up-front girth.

“It must be something in the water up here,” Shinsky said with a laugh.

Shinsky turned heads last season as a key blocker for Knoch's speedy backfield that included 1,171-yard, 19-touchdown tailback Ben Tackett.

“I started to get attention around midseason last year,” Shinsky said. “It was after the Franklin Regional game on Root Sports. Two days after that, Penn State and Virginia called. It picked up as the season went on.”

A third-year starter, Shinskly is a mainstay on the offensive line, but often blends into the pile and is out of view when a ball carrier bursts free.

His true personality comes out on defense, where he pursues quarterbacks with police-dog determination.

“He is one of the very few linemen I have coached who is able to perform on a high level on both sides of the ball,” King said.

He'll be the lone returning starter on the defensive line this fall, the veteran of the 3-5 set and the guy destined to see double teams.

“There's nothing better than sacking a quarterback, especially if he's from Mars,” Shinsky said. “(College coaches) say they like my intensity on defense. I want to transfer that to how I play offense.”

Shinsky was a first-team All-Greater Allegheny Conference pick on offense last season and a second-teamer on defense. He recorded 45 tackles and six sacks.

Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Virginia also have expressed interest. He attended camps at Temple, Pitt and Kent State, getting an offer from Kent State that day.

Pitt, Shinsky said, is interested in him as a defensive end.

The UTEP offer stems from the coaching hire of former Steelers offensive line coach Sean Kugler, who, to no surprise, is recruiting the WPIAL.

King was a lineman himself and sees potential in Shinsky.

“I made the mistake of trying to work out with him and his linemen friends,” King said. “Connor is always the one who encourages me. He is a great kid who is always looking out for the people he cares about.”

The recruiting process has its advantages. It's even fun most of the time. But keeping it all in perspective and prioritized is key.

“It's a one-step-at-a-time, one-coach-at-a-time process,” Shinsky said. “I am just trying to keep it all organized. It can get wild.”

Perhaps more than impressing college coaches who have yet to see him make a tackle or a impede a defender, Shinsky wants to make his mark in the program, while upholding the example set by former standout players.

“I owe it all to the seniors that left; I want to keep their tradition going,” Shinsky said. “I have seen how hard they have worked and the time they've put in.”

As for visits, Shinsky looked at St. Francis during a passing scrimmage, went to Virginia's junior day and attended a spring practice at Penn State.

He's also planning an unofficial visit to Youngstown State.

Bill Beckner Jr. is the local sports editor of the Valley News Dispatch. He can be reached at

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