On Monday, Konopka donned the number 83 for the Wildcats’ first practice, rather than the number 63 he was originally given. Konopka isn’t in unchartered waters—he played tight end in high school. However, playing the position at the college level is a challenge, and he is excited for the opportunity.
“I like it, I like the challenge,” said Jack Konopka. “Coming up here playing college ball, these guys are all ridiculous athletes. I just want to see how I react out there running around with them.”
Konopka was one of four offensive linemen recruits brought in with Northwestern’s 2012 recruiting class. He was ranked a three-star tackle by Scout.com.
Going into the first practice, NU head coach Pat Fitzgerald was looking forward to watching Konopka take the field. Thus far, Fitzgerald has been delighted.
“He’s one of my most intriguing freshmen, I think he can do a lot of things,” Fitzgerald said of his new superback. “We’ve got him at tight end now and we’re going to see what he can do. We’re very pleased with Jack.”
Prior to each practice, Konopka has worked on catching passes and running routes with the other superbacks. Konopka is more than confident with his pass-catching abilities, the only issue the freshman is concerned with is remembering the playbook.
“As long as I know the play that’s going on, I’ll be ok,” he said.
Just three days into becoming a superback, Konopka has gone through baptism by fire. He is running long routes and receiving bullets from all-conference quarterback Dan Persa. His head coach joked, Konopka may not have known what to expect.
“I think he thought he was just going to be pass-setting and running out five yards, we’ve got him running go routes,” Fitzgerald said. “He has done a nice job.”
Konopka has received some help with the transition. Veteran players have given him advice throughout the transition and helped him work through errors.
“They have said don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” Konopka said while referring to his teammates’ advice. “I just got to go out there and give it as much as I can, as long as I can. If I do, it’s ok. We’ll go ahead and get it corrected on film.”
Fitzgerald said on Tuesday that every player move is made by design, not for an experiment. That is the case for the Konopka switch to tight end. At 285 pounds, Konopka may seem look like an out-of-place lineman, but don’t be fooled—he can play tight end.
Whether he sticks at superback or not, Konopka is happy either way.
“I could see it being a permanent switch,” he said. “If the coaching staff feels I should go back to offensive tackle, I’m ok with that too.”
Click HERE for a post-practice video interview with Jack Konopka.