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In Connor McGovern, Broncos land weight room star, O-line standout

Wednesday, May 11, 2016   (0 Comments)
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Broncos' fifth-round pick brings weight-room toughness to Colorado

 

Denver Broncos offensive lineman Connor McGovern. 

Denver Broncos offensive lineman Connor McGovern (60) poses for a portrait during rookie minicamp May 6, 2016 at UCHealth Training Facility. (John Leyba, The Denver Post)

 

The McGoverns aren't afraid of rebuilds.

In 2012, Keith McGovern and his wife, Rondi, renovated an old brick warehouse in the heart of Fargo, N.D., that eventually would become their home. The interior was gutted, the windows replaced, the roof redone and the cold feel of the former occupant, Leef Cleaners, warmed by Rondi's design company.

The former boiler room received a face-lift, too. The century-old cinder block and brick still line the walls, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning ducts, and water pipes remain exposed. But the couple's eldest son, Connor, decided to furnish it, handling the interior design himself.

His centerpieces? A pair of Rogue Fitness squat racks and a mounted rig with attached gymnastics rings. There's a stationary bicycle and hanging punching bag. A mounted flat-screen TV flanked by speakers serve as wall art. And medicine balls, plyo boxes and weighted ropes are strewn across the floor. Call them accent pieces.

For more than two years, "The Pit" has been Connor McGovern's weight-lifting sanctuary and one of his many vehicles to the NFL. From Fargo to Columbia, Mo., he has made a name for himself as a weight-room enthusiast and a standout offensive lineman, breaking lifting records and earning football accolades at each stop.

Last week, he added another city to his tour and became a part of another rebuild. The Broncos selected him April 30 in the fifth round (No. 144 overall) in the NFL draft, making him the newest piece of their revamped offensive line.

"This is a team I grew up watching, early Madden games, playing with John Elway and Terrell Davis, the Bronco history-makers then and now," McGovern said. "When I talked to John Elway on the phone, I was a little star-struck, and I didn't know what to say. Words can't describe how happy I was to be a Bronco."

The feeling was mutual. Having played guard and tackle at Missouri, McGovern offers the Broncos versatility on the line, but also a mindset Elway is known to love.

"A tough guy," Elway said. "One thing we know about him is that he likes the weight room. He spends a lot of time in the weight room, so it's our kind of guy."

A shared passion

Keith McGovern wasn't a very good swimmer. That's his description — and that's how the story really begins. A neck injury when he was young booted him from contact sports and left with him swimming as one of his remaining options.

"The Pit," the McGoverns’ home gym.
"The Pit," the McGoverns' home gym. (Provided by Keith McGovern)

 

 

 

"So I went to Olympic weight-lifting and I competed at that in high school. I have always weight-lifted," Keith said. "Connor was a little kid who wanted to do some of the things your dad does. Connor was a big kid, so I promoted getting him into the gym early so that his weight was more useful weight. Even today, I do Crossfit workouts and he sends me videos that he puts on Instagram of his lifts. It's just something we have in common."

Over the years, the shared passion became a honed craft.

At Shanley High, a small Catholic school in Fargo, coach Steve Laqua made Connor McGovern a starter on the varsity football team as a freshman and used him on both sides of the ball, taking advantage of his size and and power to help the team to two state titles.His junior season, McGovern was all-state on defense. His senior season, he was all-state on offense and earned North Dakota's Gatorade High School Player of the Year honors.

In the weight room, McGovern turned to Anthony Carlquist, Shanley's strength coach and a professional power-lifter, for help with his technique and for tailoring his lifts to his work on the field. (Search the web for Carlquist and you'll likely stumble upon clips of him squatting 1,000 pounds and benching 738.)

The custom motorcoach Connor McGovern’s father built.

The custom motorcoach Connor McGovern's father built. (Provided by Keith McGovern)

 

"(Connor) put up some crazy, crazy numbers in the weight room," said Chris Needham, a former high school teammate who is now the recruiting coordinator for Minnesota State University at Moorhead. ."I think he still holds quite a few records at Shanley. Lifting and working out with him, he made people around him better — on the field and in the weight room."

More records would be set at Missouri, where he would continue to adjusting his lifting routines to focus on flexibility and bend. On June 26, in the presence of Laqua and others in Columbia, Connor shattered Missouri's squat record with five reps of 690 pounds.

"I mean, Missouri is no slouch and the best squat record of all time? That's pretty significant," said Laqua, now the head coach at Minnesota State at Moorhead. . "It was rewarding and exciting to be able to see him accomplish that."

At the NFL scouting combine in February, McGovern recorded 33 reps in the 225-pound bench press, tied for second among all participants. He said he was aiming for 40-plus, but the message was sent.

"There are no shortcuts there," Laqua said. "That weight either buries you and drops you to the ground or you lift it up. Having that mindset — because he's put up such high numbers in weight — you have to attack that consistently or you don't succeed."

Rewrapping Mack truck?

Keith McGovern's other remodel is a 48-foot Mack truck once used in his potato farming business in North Dakota. If he has his way, this one will find a semi-permanent home not in the heart of Fargo, but in the parking lot of Sports Authority Field on Sundays.

The truck — currently wrapped in black and yellow with the Missouri Tigers mascot and helmet stamped on the side and a yellow "60," Connor's jersey number, pasted on the hood — will have to be modified. Again.

"Oh, if I bring it to Denver, it'll be rewrapped," Keith said.

But the living room built behind the cab should hold. As should the full bathroom, kitchen, bunk bed and garage in the back.

The outsize house on wheels was a tailgating fixture at Faurot Field in Columbia, driven down from the airport where the McGoverns would fly in from Fargo to watch Connor play.

The hope is that the McGovern Motorcoach will be a fixture among Broncos tailgaters, too.

The bigger hope is that Connor will be the same on the Broncos' line, likely at guard. More tailoring to his routine and game is expected; the lifting will have to be toned down, he said, and acclimation to the speed of the pro game and a thicker playbook will take time. Those who have witnessed his success over the years say he's built for the Broncos.

"I know that it's still a long road, especially for linemen," Laqua said. "Him understanding that the weight room has built him into the football player as much as practice and studying the playbook has, I think, really given him that framework to succeed professionally."

Nicki Jhabvala: njhabvala@denverpost.com or @NickiJhabvala


About McGovern

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 306 pounds

Hometown: Fargo, N.D.

College: Missouri

Draft: Fifth round, No. 144

Highlights

All-state on defensive and offensive line at Shanley High School

Gatorade High School Player of the Year in North Dakota in 2010

Set Missouri weight-room records, including five reps of 690 pounds on squat

Benched 33 reps of 225 pounds at NFL combine, tied for second-most

Three-year starter at Missouri; has played right tackle, right guard, left tackle

 


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