Connor Ketchen has high expectations for himself on the gridiron and that’s readily apparent based on his reaction to his season with the University of Regina Rams.
Despite having a solid sophomore campaign as Regina’s starting middle linebacker, the 21-year-old Neelin high school graduate feels he has a lot to improve during his next three seasons of Canada West conference football.
"It means a lot (to start as a second-year player)," Ketchen said. "It’s still far away from where I want to be, but it’s the first step in completing a lot of goals I have for myself and it reflects on the effort I put in and the trust the coaches have in me. It means a lot and I’m proud of it. At the same time, I won’t be satisfied with that and I’ll keep working."
This past season was a big change for the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Ketchen. He went from part-time duty in different defensive packages and playing special teams during his first year to being on the field on defence full time. That meant a lot more time working on the game plan with coaches and being in the film room. He also had to grasp the defence better to call out changes and audibles on the line of scrimmage.
The kinesiology student started seven of Regina’s eight conference games this season and finished eighth in Canada West with 41 1/2 tackles, 33 of which were solo. He also had two knockdowns, an interception that he returned 59 yards, forced two fumbles and recovered one.
Although his personal numbers were solid, Ketchen would rather focus on the 2-6 record that was posted by the young Rams team, which had only five fifth-year players. The Rams also gave up the second-most points in the conference, but were second-stingiest for yards allowed.
"It’s always hard to measure individual success in football," he said. "It’s a team game and we performed as well as we could this year. Not just looking at my statistics, but at my preparation and confidence I think it’s OK. It’s far from where I want to be, but it’s the effort I put in, so I’ll take that for right now and continue to work hard to be better."
As a starter, Ketchen has taken more of a leadership role on the team as well. He helped rookies in training camp become more comfortable — including fellow Brandonites Dylan Minshull, Michael Bright and Brandon Williams, who Ketchen said would have been fine even if he hadn’t been there this season.
Ultimately, Ketchen would like to improve to the point where he can play football at the professional level, but he’s not looking that far ahead yet. Instead, he’s focusing on his third season with the Rams and helping them get back to the playoffs in 2014.
After spending a lot of time in the weight room since the season ended, the players begin practising again indoors on Sunday. Ketchen can’t wait to put the horned helmet on again and see how much his team can improve before next season kicks off in the fall.
"Last year we lost a lot of guys and were figuring out who was going to be on our team and this and that. This year we graduated only five guys," he said. "Our team has been here since the first day we were eliminated from the playoffs. We’ve been working hard as a team, we’ve been together and I think we’re miles ahead of where we were this time last year."