Bolles tight end Connor Cox

Antonio Gates and Tony Gonzalez are just the start.

The standout tight ends roll call is filled with athletes who played other team sports before settling on football. Is Connor Cox next in line?

Moving from lacrosse to the full-time gridiron a few years ago, Bolles’ senior tight end continues the Bulldog tradition on the Times-Union Super 11 team entering the 2022 high school football season in the Northeast. from Florida.

When Cox was growing up in the Carolinas, he initially envisioned a future in lacrosse more than football. He played lacrosse in his first year at Cardinal Gibbons, scoring a goal and an assist before COVID-19 interrupted the season and swung his sporting plans to a different track.

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“Lacrosse was my main sport until COVID hit and then I decided to get into soccer for real,” he said.

Just over a year after transferring to school, Cox is making waves on the First Coast for the 11-time state champions.

In a quirky twist, Cox came to Jacksonville from Cardinal Gibbons High School in Raleigh, North Carolina — a school with the same name as the Broward County program that beat Bolles in Florida High’s 2020 championship game. School Athletic Association.

Although he shares their multi-sport background, Gates and Gonzalez aren’t the top players on Cox’s list of tight ends.

Cox instead points to former great Rob Gronkowski as his role model for the perfect tight end, which comes as no surprise to a longtime New England Patriots fan with deep family ties to the Northeast.

“When they played against the Falcons [in Super Bowl LI]I was watching this game and it was huge, I was watching Tom [Brady] come back from this,” he said.

During his freshman year at Bolles, Cox played primarily in a blocking role in an early offense built around Kade Frew, who concluded his career with the Bulldogs with nearly 4,000 rushing yards.

On those occasions when Cox had the chance to put the ball in his hands, however, he showed the danger he could create. He caught seven passes for 148 yards, including a key touchdown reception in the Class 4A semifinal against Cocoa. He also lined up at receiver on occasion, creating a game of nightmare size for cornerbacks.

In 2022, on an offense that returns an athletic, dual-threat quarterback in the rising junior DJ Moore and an offensive line that ranks among the best in the region, Cox could see his reception numbers increase exponentially.

“Kade was definitely running for all those jobs, just a workaholic. There are definitely big shoes to fill,” he said. “But I think the attack is going to be great. We’ve definitely adjusted and recharged.”

Scouts took a look at his 6-6, 225-pound frame and liked what they saw.

This earned him a chance to play college football next season in South Carolina. Cox signed to the Gamecocks in June in front of more than a dozen competitors, further bolstering what is shaping up to be an excellent recruiting class for South Carolina coach Shane Beamer around the First Coast.

And it’s not like South Carolina doesn’t have its own history with Bolles’ multi-sport tight ends. Five years ago, former Bolles baseball star Hayden Hurst earned All-SEC honors as he played tight end in South Carolina en route to the NFL.

“The vibe was great,” Cox said. “People in general just made it feel like home.”

Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.

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