BLACKSBURG, Va. (BVM) – When it comes to producing professional defensive backs, it’s hard to find a football program better at doing it than Virginia Tech. Since 2002, the Hokies have had the fifth-most DBs selected in the NFL Draft with 23, only behind national powerhouses Ohio State, LSU, Florida and Alabama. Among some of the most recognizable defensive backs drafted out of Virginia Tech include DeAngelo Hall, Kam Chancellor, Kendall and Kyle Fuller among others.
Given the success that Hokies DBs have had over the past two decades, NFL scouts and coaching staffs tend to know what they’re getting out of defensive backs from Blacksburg. This NFL Draft season is no different as Virginia Tech will have one of the top-producing DBs in program history in the pool of draft-eligible players.
Chamarri Conner is well-known by both Hokies fans and ACC fans alike. The 6-foot, 206-pound safety played five years in Blacksburg, beginning his journey with 13 games played as a true freshman in 2018.
“I feel like it’s a great opportunity,” Conner said. “There’s a lot of great guys that have come through Virginia Tech and a lot of great guys who I’ve had an opportunity to play with and meet and get to know. A lot of those guys have the same traits, hardworking, blue collar, guys that just keep their heads down and keep working. It’s great to know that I’m next up.”
Conner played 61 games with 47 starts, recording 314 total tackles, 23 pass deflections, 21 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, four forced fumbles, four interceptions and a blocked kick. Conner’s 314 tackles put him at No. 10 on the Hokies’ all-time list, despite him playing in the last line of the defense. His 47 starts also broke an ACC record for consecutive starts in a career, proving not only his experience but his toughness and durability.
“That’s a great accomplishment, especially with all the great players that have been through Virginia Tech, especially those guys on defense,” Conner said. “That’s a huge accomplishment and means a lot to me.”
Conner played a number of different positions in the defensive backfield for the Hokies. Beginning as a cornerback, Conner played both cornerback and nickelback over his first four seasons, earning honorable mention All-ACC honors in both 2020 and 2021. As a redshirt senior this past fall, Conner was moved to safety full-time where he registered the second-most tackles with 63, putting him in the top 20 in the ACC at 17th.
“I definitely think it will help me in the next step of my career,” Conner said. “I really enjoy playing all over the field, I love being that versatile guy that can play different positions. I did a lot of that over my career, starting at nickel and playing strong safety, free safety and corner. The position I would prefer, I like free safety a lot, it’s the position I played last year mostly and I love free safety but I’m ready to play whatever.”
After five standout seasons in Blacksburg, Conner declared for the 2023 NFL Draft on Dec. 5. Since then, Conner has had his eyes set on becoming the 24th Hokies defensive back taken since 2002.
“It’s a lifelong dream to be in the NFL so me taking that next step of putting my name in and to be able to say I took that next step, it feels great to keep moving forward and try to accomplish my dreams,” Conner said.
— 1️⃣ (@chamarriconner9) December 6, 2022
Conner’s draft journey has already begun as he has started training at the EXOS training center in Pensacola, Florida for his first pre-draft event, the Senior Bowl, which takes place during the first week of February in Mobile, Alabama. The Senior Bowl is an annual college football all-star game that features draft-eligible seniors competing against each other in a game. This is considered one of the best games for draft prospects to be a part of as it gives NFL scouts and coaches an opportunity to see how players practice and play in live games.
🦃 OFFICIAL! DB Chamarri Conner @chamarriconner9 from @HokiesFB is heading to the 2023 Senior Bowl!!! #GoHokies #TheDraftStartsInMOBILE™️ @JimNagy_SB @PaniniAmerica #RatedRookie pic.twitter.com/vSllHBV71q
— Reese's Senior Bowl (@seniorbowl) November 22, 2022
For Conner, it is a major opportunity for him to shine. He is the lone representative from Virginia Tech at this year’s event and will look to use the platform to help him get selected on draft weekend.
“That’s a big honor,” Conner said. “I look forward to playing in the Senior Bowl. It’s something I wanted to do for a long time. I didn’t know too much about it coming out of high school but over the years seeing guys play in it was big for me when I got the invitation.”
According to a Senior Bowl press release, the event is coming off consecutive record-breaking drafts with 106 players selected each of the past two years, which has represented over 40 percent of the entire past two draft classes. Since the 2019 NFL Draft, 87.2% of the players wound up making an active 53-man NFL roster at some point during their rookie season. This means that if Conner performs at his best, he will have a high likelihood of being selected.
From there, Conner will go to the NFL Combine to show off his measurables in events like the 40-yard dash, bench press and ball drills for scouts, coaches and executives. After that will be the Virginia Tech Pro Day in the spring and finally the NFL draft, beginning April 27.
“I’m going to the Combine,” Conner said. “That’s another lifelong dream. I remember being a little kid searching on YouTube for guys running the 40 and doing position drills at the Combine. So when I got in I was super excited.”
Things will be ramping up for Conner over the next few months, but he is excited to show off what he can do.
“I’m ready to show them the type of player that I am,” Conner said. “Show them what I bring to the table. Show them the versatility. Show them whatever I bring to the table really.”
With loads of experience, a couple of records and a hard-working attitude, Conner should be a welcomed addition to any NFL locker room. Now, it’s just a matter of time to see if he can join the illustrious ranks of drafted Hokies defensive backs.
“That would mean so much to me,” Conner said. “I’m just ready to see what the next step is, to be honest. That would mean a lot to hear my name called.”