When Stony Brook football’s senior quarterback and captain Conor Bednarski began his senior year at South Pasadena High School in California, the light shining over his dream of starting at a Division I school was dim.
Coming off two 2-8 seasons in which he threw nine more interceptions than he did touchdowns, any offers to play college football were from Division III schools. Yet, he still had a couple of things to fall back on.
“Perseverance and dedication to his craft,” John Bednarski, Conor’s father, said in referencing the two traits which he believes his son exhibits more than anything else. “He knew or felt in his heart that he had the skill set to perform at a higher level.”
After finishing up his high school career by throwing 13 touchdowns and only three interceptions during his senior year, Bednarski moved on to Fullerton College, a junior college in California, where he would look to hone his skills for two seasons in pursuit of a scholarship at the next level. He was not guaranteed a starting job—even at Fullerton.
“Competition is always going to be a part of sports,” Bednarski said. “It’s not something that I was running from or anything like that,” “That’s why I went to junior college — so that I can prove that I can play at a high level of football.”
It took a few games, but Bednarski would earn the starting quarterback role. He threw for 1,836 yards and 11 touchdowns as a freshman. Just a year later, the Californian tossed the pigskin 2,453 yards through the air and found the endzone 25 times.
Three years after leading a two-win team, an olive branch was extended toward the West Coast from Long Island. Bednarski grabbed it, transferring from coast-to-coast to accept Stony Brook’s scholarship offer in the spring of 2013. Sitting out for a year as a redshirt, he sat and watched Lyle Negron lead the Seawolves in Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium, a spot he wanted to be in.
When it appeared that he would jump into the starting role last season, the then-junior temporarily saw the job go to Syracuse University transfer John Kinder. Bednarski was not done yet, however.
“I think his steady and determined progression through his football career has shown that he has dedicated himself to working hard to be the finest athlete he can be,” Bednarski’s father said. Not starting right away may not have been what the quarterback preferred, but he took it in stride just the same. “
Obviously I wasn’t hoping to play behind someone else,” Bednarski said of sitting on the sideline and watching Kinder, who has since graduated. “But I embraced that competition, and it made me a better player.”
With the question of whether or not Kinder would remain the starter for the entirety of the season up in the air, the senior transfer went 11 for 28 passing the ball in his first two games, throwing two interceptions in the process. So, as Stony Brook found itself in a defensive battle with the Football Bowl Subdivision’s University of Connecticut, Bednarski was thrust into live competition.
“I was just trying to keep a positive mindset and have a high level of confidence so that when you do get put in the game you can go out there and perform at a high level,” the 22-year-old said. “I was just waiting for coach to call my number and I’d be ready to go.”
He was indeed ready, throwing a late touchdown to current New York Giants tight end Will Tye, wide open in the middle of the endzone, keeping the Seawolves alive in what became a loss. Despite hiccups here and there — Bednarski was hit on a drop-back forcing a fumble as Stony Brook looked to tie or take the lead against James Madison in an otherwise impressive 260-yard passing performance — the quarterback showed promise, totaling 1,327 yards and nine touchdowns, despite getting picked off seven times. Bednarski underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder this spring, another hurdle standing in his way.
“I’ve never had surgery before as a result of a football injury, so that was something new,” Bednarski said, adding that the time off gave him a chance to truly bury his head in the playbook and gain a new perspective on plays as they were happening on the field. “It was a new challenge that I embraced and I definitely think it made me mentally stronger and made me work that much harder,” he said.
He has one more chance to accomplish his main goal, which he said is “just to win games.” But for Bednarski, it is also the culmination and continuation of a long-and-winding road.
“It’s been a wild ride. I definitely wouldn’t have, couldn’t have imagined this three or four years ago,” Bednarski said. “[I’m] definitely happy to be here. There’s no place I’d rather be.”