However, the former Harrison High School standout has a little more invested in the Seminoles’ bowl appearance than the average fan — after all, he will have the chance to line up against the Atlantic Coast Conference champions in Miami.
Connors is a fullback at Northern Illinois, and with their double-overtime win over Kent State in the Mid-American Conference championship game, the Huskies became the first non-undefeated team from outside the major conferences to reach a BCS bowl.
The Huskies have reached a bowl game in each of Connors’ three seasons with the team — he redshirted in 2010 — but the third-year sophomore is expecting to play in a bowl for the first time against Florida State.
“My parents are Florida State grads, so I grew up in a Florida State home my whole life, so it’s pretty surreal to play a team I grew up watching,” Connors said. “So far, I have been to two (bowl) games, and we’ve won two, so I’m feeling pretty good going into this one.”
Northern Illinois beat Idaho in the 2010 Humanitarian Bowl, and Arkansas State in last season’s GoDaddy.com Bowl, but Connors said neither of those games came close to the magnitude of playing in a BCS game.
“This is the Orange Bowl,” he said. “That is huge.”
While playing on Jan. 1 wasn’t something Connors expected when the season started, he certainly doesn’t think it’s been a miracle season, with Northern Illinois 12-1 and No. 16 in The Associated Press poll.
“Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win the MAC championship,” he said. “That was our first goal, and we go from there after that.”
Connors logs time both on special teams and as a fullback in short-yardage situations — though he has yet to get a carry — and taking to a variety of roles in nothing new for the 6-foot-1, 246-pound Connors. At Harrison, he saw time as a linebacker and on the defensive and offensive lines.
Regardless of what his role is, Connors said that when his number is called against Florida State, he will be ready.
After redshirting his freshman year and not seeing any playing time last season, Connors made it his offseason goal to put himself in the position to contribute to the Huskies on the field.
“Last year, most of the duty was on the scout team — you know, helping the defense get ready,” Connors said. “Then, I set that goal for myself to get on the field this year, and I did. It’s nice to get back to that great feeling every time you step on the field. You get a twitch and just excited to play.”
Connors said the best part of playing in the Orange Bowl will be going at it with his teammates.
“We’ve got a great group of guys,” he said. “We get to enjoy the experience together and one of the best teams in the nation and show them that we belong.
“We are working on simulating (Florida State’s) team speed. They have a really fast team and we want to be ready for it on game day.”
Currently, Connors is in the midst of a break at his family’s Cobb County home, and he will return to DeKalb, Ill., on Tuesday. The Huskies then leave for Miami the following day.
Connors said the break from practice won’t distract him or his teammates from their Orange Bowl preparations.
“Everyone is pretty amped up and ready to go,” he said. “Last year, we had to wait until Jan, 7 to play our bowl game, so this one is actually moved up a little bit. Everyone is just really excited to get out there and play.”