Connor Arlia is impressive. The way he carries himself, on and off the field, is rare. He has the demeanor of a seasoned professional, but the smile of an ambitious, young competitor.
The five foot nine junior from Weirton, West Virginia started at the inside receiver position for the Mountaineers in their 2012 season. He finished with seven catches for 43 yards.
Arlia was named the 2013 Tom Nickolick Award winner, given to WVU's top walk-on and was an Iron Mountaineer honoree in the spring for excellence in the weight room.
"It's something I'm definitely trying to embrace right now. The R.T.T., Ready To Train, that's a great thing that we're imploring into the program," Arlia said. "We're coming in every single workout maximizing our potential, giving 100 percent effort, because we know that's what it takes to be better. I'll be honest with you, there are days I get tired, but I know I've got to bring energy and excitement every single day because that's what's going to lift my teammates up. They are kind of looking toward me, and I'm just trying to embrace that and help the team get better."
Arlia exudes a sense of leadership that no teammate seems to question, but instead, they all just follow his lead. He always puts the team before himself and does not covet the individual spotlight, most apparent in his fight for wide receiver position.
"I have a ton of confidence in all of us because we're coming in every day and we're busting our butts right now," Arlia said. "We're putting in the work every day, we're buying in, we get out there for seven-on-seven and we're working our hardest and that's what it's all about, just repetition. We're running routes and routes every day, catching over 100 balls every day and if we keep doing that, we're going to be a great team."
He says the main goal is to develop a two-deep rotation at the wide receiver position, meaning WVU Coach Dana Holgorsen can put in any of the wide receivers, at any given moment and throw them in the game, confident that the Mountaineers' performance will not waiver.
Not only is there competition at wide receiver, but the obvious battle for the starting role is at quarterback. Between Clint Trickett, Paul Millard and Ford Childress, it is a heated race for who will lead the Mountaineer Offense.
"Clint, Paul, Ford – all of them, they're all putting in great work. They're working hard every day, they're great students of the game and it's great to have that," Arlia said. "Not only there, but there's competition everywhere and that's what is going to make us better. If you don't like competition, you're playing the wrong sport. It's going to be a great thing for us. We want to bring as many great players as we can in here and that'll allow the team to get better."
This is exactly what makes the 2013 West Virginia Football season so exciting for fans. With many new faces, from the coaching staff down to the players, the caliber of this team is unknown. Arlia is positive that a year under their belt in the Big 12 Conference assures the Mountaineers will be ready for this year's competition.
"I think it'll help us a lot. We know what we're up against now. We know that every week, every practice, we've got to bring it. We can't have a big win and get complacent. We've got to put in the work every single day and if we do that, then we can't have any regrets out on the field."
In a sport with such a high number of players, it is easy for individuals to get lost in the sea of faces, especially as one year fades into the next. Arlia sticks out. His positivity and un-selfishness is hard to find within the compounds of a game that thrives on "me".