OKLAHOMA CITY – For anybody still wondering about what to get Owen Condon for Christmas, he has a suggestion.
“I’d love some Rose Bowl tickets,” the 6-foot-7, 315-pound offensive lineman said.
Condon will be able to accompany the Georgia Bulldogs to bowl games free of charge soon enough. He has been committed to them since last summer and said he will sign with the Bulldogs on the first day of the new early period next Wednesday.
In the meantime, he’s just a huge Georgia fan, literally and figuratively. He proved as much two weeks ago when he and his mom traveled to Atlanta to watch the Bulldogs play Auburn in the SEC Championship Game.
It was then, after the Bulldogs’ 28-7 victory, that the craziest thought first occurred to Condon. “Georgia and Oklahoma actually could end up playing each other in the College Football Playoffs.”
And, of course, they did. The nation’s No. 2- and No. 3-ranked teams will meet in the semifinals in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Jan. 1.
You have to visit Condon in his hometown to really understand how cool that is to him. The young man lives in the heart of Sooners country. Bishop McGuiness Catholic High School, where Condon grew into a major college football prospect, is located 27.1 miles from Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium.
Nevertheless, everybody around here knows full well that Condon is fully committed to the Bulldogs. So he heard it from them when he returned to school on the Monday following the College Football Playoff selection show.
“He got a lot of ‘Boomer Sooners’ in the hallways,” Bishop McGuiness coach Justin Jones said with a laugh. “That’s the big rally cry around here. Oklahoma is very passionate about their Sooners. It’s pretty cool to see Georgia meet them in the College Football Playoffs.”
Condon thinks so, too.
“Obviously, I’m really good friends with a lot of diehard OU guys, so there’s some friendly trash talking there,” Condon said. “But I think it’s going to be a really good game, a really good matchup. They both have two young, up-and-coming coaches. They’re two good programs with fans that are really passionate and travel well. It’d be really fun to go out there and see that.”
Alas, Condon said he probably won’t make the trek to Pasadena. He’d like to, but he has a lot of work to do here in his little hamlet just northeast of downtown Oklahoma City.
At the moment, his primary focus is rehabilitating the knee injury that snuffed out his senior season. Condon actually got hurt in his school’s first game but didn’t realize how badly. He said he knew he “tweaked it” but played through that game and the second one as well.
But it was after Game 2 that Condon realized he could have a problem. The pain finally got to him, and he broke down and asked to see a doctor.
An MRI revealed a torn meniscus. His senior season was shut down at that point and Condon underwent surgery 11 weeks ago.
“The surgery was a success,” he said. “It was in an area that had vascular to it, so they were able to stitch it up rather than just scope it out. I should be good to go soon.”
In the meantime, though, Condon had to stand on the sidelines as Bishop McGuiness continued through the season. His team’s season didn’t end until a loss to Carl Albert High School in the Class 5A state championship game.
“That hurt,” Condon said of not being able to play. “I feel like I could have made a difference.”
Condon is ranked as a 3-star prospect on the 247Sports composite ratings. He said he feels he can make a difference at Georgia, and obviously the Bulldogs do, too. They offered him in the middle of his first unofficial visit to Athens last spring.
Condon and his parents left early this morning on a plane headed to Georgia for a weekend official visit in Athens.
As for Oklahoma, the Sooners never came forth with an offer to Condon. They probably would have eventually, according to his high school coach, but Condon wasn’t interested in waiting to find out.
“OU’s always slow to offer local kids,” Jones said. “Texas is just down the road and they spend a lot of time recruiting there. They feel like they can come in late on the locals because they’re the home school. [Oklahoma State] will recruit guys a little earlier, but OU’s always slow to offer. And Owen is a transplant Oklahoman, so he wasn’t willing to wait.”
Condon’s father, Bill, is from Pensacola, Fla., and his mother, Sheri, was born in Cleveland but raised in Atlanta and attended UGA. So he said he grew up more of an SEC fan and always followed the Bulldogs.
When the family ended up touring schools last spring, they ended up primarily in the South. Florida, Vanderbilt, Arkansas and Oklahoma State ended up being the main competition for Georgia. But he said it was never really close.
“I just fell in love with Georgia when I visited,” Condon said. “The campus is great. And Georgia offers a really good combination of academics and athletics. Behind Vandy they’re probably next in line academics-wise in the SEC. Obviously, their football is where it is right now; they’re in the playoffs. You can’t beat that. So the combination of the two really put it together for me.”
As for the snub from Oklahoma, Condon said it only serves as motivation for him going forward. He visited the school numerous times his sophomore and junior years and attended several games last year. Oklahoma line coach Bill Bedenbaugh called him and came to some of his games his junior season but never stepped up with an offer.
“They were just kind of slow-playing me,” seconding what his coach said. “They have kind of a history of slow-playing in-state guys, for whatever reason. But I wasn’t waiting around to see if I could get an offer. So I started exploring other options.”
The end result is Condon will play for the Bulldogs and there will be nothing even close to divided loyalties when the two teams play on New Year’s Day. Whether Condon watches the game at home here or finds some way to Pasadena, he’ll be red and black all the way.
And he likes the way the game matches up for UGA.
“I think a big storyline people aren’t talking about is if Georgia can control the ball and run the ball well and keep Baker [Mayfield] off the field. I think that will frustrate them,” Condon said. “Out here in the Big 12, they’re used to just running-and-gunning all day; they’re all offense. They haven’t seen the backs like Georgia has in [Nick] Chubb and [Sony] Michel and [D’Andre] Swift. I don’t think they’ve seen teams that play offense like Georgia does. I think if Georgia can generate some of those long drives and keep Oklahoma’s offense off the field, I think that’ll be a big key to the game.”
Spoken like a true Bulldog.