Just a few days ago, UK Athletics announced the hiring of former tight end CJ Conrad as a football grad assistant for this coming season. Conrad is joining the UK football staff as he plans to also complete a master’s degree. The former five-star recruit out of Ohio met with the media on Wednesday to discuss his new position on the UK football staff, and in the meeting expressed excitement to be back in Lexington.
“I’m very excited to get [back to] a program where I feel like I made an impact on and want to continue to do that through the coaching side,” Conrad said.
After UK Athletics announced that the former tight end would be a grad assistant this coming season, many wondered — does this mean Conrad is retiring from football? He was picked up by the New York Giants after going undrafted in 2018, but did not make much progress as many teams were leary of the former five-star recruit’s potential because of a newly discovered heart issue.
Due to the lack of interest and the medical issue, Conrad told the media he is not pursuing a professional football career any longer.
“I think I’m done with playing football,” he said. “So it just got to the point for me where I didn’t want to sit around and wait anymore and I’m very content and happy with my career as a college football player and my short time in the NFL. Especially with my body going through four surgeries in college, I think I was a little decked out and ready to move on with my life and this is something I really wanted to pursue.”
The former tight end opened up a little more on the difficulties of having the medical issue, and described how tough it was to get much of a chance from a team to play with that problem on his resume.
“The information that was told to me was very tough,” he said. “I do think it made it very difficult for me because, well first off, I didn’t get to have much of a pro day, combine or all-star game. Also a lot of teams weren’t okay [taking him]. I did get cleared later on, but there was still at least 80% of teams in the league uncomfortable with my situation.”
Conrad also discussed what he expects to attribute to the team in his new role as a grad assistant, citing his fresh experience as something that can help the coaches and players.
“From the coaching end I wanna give our coaches some insight on what these [players] are thinking sometimes,” he said. “Being a guy that is kinda fresh out of the locker room, I can give them a perspective from that point of view. And then obviously just doing as much as I can for these coaches when it comes to breaking down film and watching practice, [and also] giving my thoughts and opinions to them. And then from the players side of view, just being a guy who’s been there, done that and seen a lot of things.”
Even though he is now on the coaching staff, Conrad says his relationship with UK Head Coach Mark Stoops is similar to the bond they had in his last season as a Wildcat.
“He (Stoops) was very good about taking our opinions,” Conrad said. “If he trusts you, he’s gonna ask you for your thoughts. Now that I am on the coaching side, it just reminds me of how things were in my senior year.”
In terms of his future as a coach, Conrad described the career as something he always wanted to do, and credited former UK linebacker Courtney Love and tight end coach Vince Marrow with advising him to possibly pursue the role as a grad assistant for Kentucky.
The UK football team continues to participate in voluntary workouts, and will begin preseason camp on Aug. 1.