The Conner family name is synonymous with Noxubee County football. It’s a bloodline that has produced state champions and others who have gone on to make an impact at the next level, and will continue on Saturday in another state title game.
Before three-year starting quarterback Ti’Morrius Conner championed the Tigers to the MHSAA Class 4A title in 2014, his brother, Termarcus, led Noxubee County to its first championship in 2008. Their cousin, Omarr, suited up under center from 1999-2002 before going on to play quarterback and wide receiver at Mississippi State.
“It’s crazy,” Noxubee County coach Tyrone Shorter said. “They’re all quarterbacks and they all wore No. 1. I think it’s just a thing in that family.”
Ti’Morrius always knew he’d wind up as a signal caller when he began playing football at age 11. To those in Macon and the surrounding community, if you’re a Conner, you’re a quarterback.
“It’s a big deal,” Ti’Morrius said. “I’m close kin to most of all the quarterbacks that have come through Noxubee County. We all grew up in the same neighborhood. People always told me I was going to be a quarterback. They’d say, ‘You’re kin to this person. You’re going to be a quarterback.'”
The Noxubee County standout grew up idolizing his eldest brother, who is 7 years his senior. One year after leading Noxubee County to the Class 4A championship against St. Stanislaus, Conner will have a chance to repeat history and top his brother’s accomplishments when the Tigers face the Rock-a-chaws for a second straight year in the title game.
The bond between Ti’Morrius and Termarcus is rooted in the sport they love. The two could be found in the backyard of their family’s home throwing footballs through a tire swing attached to a large tree or trying to land passes in trashcans set up inside the end zone at the high school. To help Ti’Morrius handle pressure and establish a better pocket presence, Termarcus would chase his younger brother with a broom, giving Ti’Morrius seconds to make the right decision and get rid of the football.
“They both grew up as ball boys for Noxubee County and were around football all their lives,” Shorter said. “When you see Ti’Morrius play now and you put on the film when his brother played, you really can’t tell the difference. They run alike, they throw the ball alike. It’s crazy. I was talking to their mom the other day and was like, ‘Do your realize that you have two sons that won state championships?’ It’s a blessing to have both of those guys come through the program.”
Over the years, Ti’Morrius picked up on the little things that made his brother successful, from his cadence to escaping the pocket and making a throw on the run. Skill was never the issue, but a critical piece of advice he received from his cousin long before Ti’Morrius would be playing for his second state title became relevant during his final run of high school football.
“One of the key things he always said was, ‘Let the game come to you, don’t try to go to it,'” Conner said.
Those are words the Noxubee County senior would pull upon after he and his team struck rock bottom this season.
As a junior, Ti’Morrius threw for over 3,000 yards for 35 touchdowns and nine interceptions. After back-to-back wins against 6A opponents Starkville and Columbus to open the 2015 season, the Tigers didn’t win for an entire month. During a four-game stretch, Conner totaled his interception count from last season, including four against Meridian, three of which were returned for touchdowns.
The one-hour bus ride back to Macon after a 28-0 defeat to Meridian was the loneliest time for a quarterback tasked with high expectations of leading his team to another state title.
“I felt horrible,” Conner said quietly.
There came a point during that stretch where Shorter realized his quarterback’s confidence took a major hit. From fans voicing their opinion over the Noxubee County signal caller and questioning Conner’s ability to lead his team, the sixth-year head coach knew he had to restore his quarterback’s confidence before the season was all but lost.
“I remember sitting him down after that Meridian game and said, ‘Look, you need to block everything out because all of this is a distraction,'” Shorter said. “I told him he’s not playing the game by himself. (Other teams) are getting pressure on him. You may make some bad reads at times but all of this is not your fault. I told him you’re our leader, you’re my quarterback and no matter what, you’re not going to get benched. You need to get it together.”
Noxubee County endured two more losses before things finally started to turn around. In the Tigers’ region opener against Kosciusko, Shorter started to see his old quarterback emerge. Conner threw for a season-best 269 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 22-12 win.
At 5-foot-10, Ti’Morrius doesn’t hold the same advantage that his cousin did by being able to see clearly over his line. He’s learned to see through linemen, make his pre-snap reads and use one of several natural gifts to march his team down the field.
“I told him that God gave him the ability to run because he’s really, really fast,” Shorter said. “Once he started using his legs, he stopped forcing it and made better decisions. Now teams have to worry about a quarterback that can pick apart your defense and one that can hurt you with his legs.”
The bad stretch may have been what saved Noxubee County’s season. Conner has 2,721 yards passing for 21 touchdowns and 15 interceptions this season. His ability to pick up the first down with his feet has improved. And his confidence on what he can do not only to extend his family’s legacy but help Noxubee County win its third championship in four years doesn’t provide extra pressure. It’s the motivation he needs to end his high school career on a high note.
“After all those losses, we had to set a tone that before district started, anyone that wants to go to state has to come through us,” Conner said. “Now it’s ours to win.”
Contact Courtney Cronin at (601) 961-7091 or email@example.com. Follow @CourtneyRCronin on Twitter.
Class 4A championship
3 p.m. Saturday
at Vaught Hemingway Stadium, Oxford
Noxubee County (11-4) vs. St. Stanislaus (11-3)