TERRE HAUTE —
Until recently, when it came to Washington, Ill.’s Underwood clan, ISU spelled out one thing and signified one color only.
Illinois State and its cardinal red.
However, Connor Underwood broke ranks. When recruited out of high school, he donned Indiana State blue.
The Sycamores are glad he did. The redshirt freshman has played his way into a key role in the Sycamores’ fifth-ranked Football Championship Subdivision defense.
No. 14 Indiana State’s home finale this Saturday against No. 17 Illinois State represents the first time Connor Underwood will face the Redbirds. Given how the Underwood family and the Redbirds are linked, it might be a surreal experience.
“We have a lot of family coming … I don’t know what side they’ll be rooting for,” Connor said.
It’s not hyperbole to state that Connor might not exist if not for Illinois State. His father, Scott, played football for the Redbirds from 1986-89. His mother, Donna, was a volleyball player at Illinois State from 1986-90.
It doesn’t stop there. Underwood’s brother, Colton, is a defensive end for the Redbirds … and a darn good one. The Redbirds’ Underwood, a junior, leads Illinois State with seven sacks and is second with 78 total tackles. Colton Underwood was recently added to the Buck Buchanan Award watch list.
Given the lineage, it would seem that Connor Underwood would’ve been on a one-way train to Normal once his own high school career concluded … so how did he end up in Terre Haute?
“When I came on my visit, I liked everything I saw. I saw exactly where this program was going. It was going in a really good direction. Eventually, we’ll be the top team in the conference. No one believed it, but I saw it. I love the people here and it’s nice to get away from home too,” Connor said.
The Underwood brothers are close. Connor said that he and Colton communicate nightly in some fashion. That communication won’t end this week — despite the fact that both teams are ranked, both are playing for their place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference pecking order and that both teams are acknowledged rivals.
Connor and Colton will still talk … just not about this Saturday’s game.
“We decided we’d talk about our own lives, but keep the football out of it,” Connor said. “Overall, it’s about who wins the game, it won’t be about either one of us individually. But there are bragging rights.”
Connor is following in his brother’s team-leading footsteps with the Sycamores this season as he’s been a revelation playing ISU’s hybrid linebacker-defensive end spot. Like Colton, Connor leads his team with six sacks — twice as many as any other Sycamore has amassed. Connor is sixth on ISU in total tackles with 37.
Though the brothers share many attributes — including an innate sense of the game — there are differences between them, ISU coach Trent Miles said.
“He’s tough, he’s athletic, he’s smart, and he loves the game of football,” said Miles on Connor. “His brother and he are different types of players. His brother is bigger, probably 255 or 260 pounds. Connor is more athletic. He can drop [into coverage]. He can rush.”
Though Connor showed his ability from the beginning of the season, he feels a lot more comfortable now in ISU’s scheme. He admitted that it’s a difficult defense to grow accustomed to the first time around.
“The hardest thing is to be able to think on the run. We’re constantly changing calls and each has a different responsibility. At the snap of a finger, you have to know what to do. It’s the hardest adjustment,” Connor said.
As for his decision to become a Sycamore, Connor said there’s no hard feelings on the part of his Redbirds’ family. There’s enough Underwood talent around to keep two different ISU defenses lively.
“Everyone supports me. There’s not too much teasing. My brother will tease me, but everybody in my family supports me. They’ll support me even though it’s Illinois State and they all went there,” Connor said.
• ISU charitable effort for Sandy — Miles’ wife, Bridget, initiated an effort to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. Along with Catholic Charities and the Red Cross, tickets for Saturday’s game can be acquired for free with a charitable donation.
“She said with the hurricane hitting, let’s talk to the Red Cross and see if we can get them involved and see if ISU was willing to let people in free if they brought a donation or a canned good and ISU went along with it,” Miles said.
According to ISU sports information, fans will receive a free ticket if they donate five pounds of food, or, if they make a monetary gift to the Red Cross. Donations can be made at the Hulman Center ticket office today, Thursday or Friday and at Thursday’s men’s basketball exhibition game and Friday’s women’s basketball exhibition game.
Donations also can be made on gameday at Memorial Stadium.
• Operation 10K — There has been a grassroots efforts undertaken to make sure there’s not a repeat of ISU’s poor attendance it suffered during last Saturday’s 45-14 victory over South Dakota
A grassroots Internet viral campaign done by the student support group The Forest made the Youtube, Facebook and Twitter rounds Tuesday. It trumpets Operation 10K — effort to get 10,000 fans to Memorial Stadium for Saturday’s key game.
ISU drew just 5,224 last Saturday.
TERRE HAUTE —
Until recently, when it came to Washington, Ill.’s Underwood clan, ISU spelled out one thing and signified one color only.
DeNato proves IU can pitch too
Joey DeNato dispelled the notion that College World Series newcomer Indiana is all about offense.
The junior left-hander threw a four-hitter and the Hoosiers looked mighty comfortable at TD Ameritrade Park while beating Louisville 2-0 on Saturday night.
Etherington, Moore happy to be with ISU basketball
Not even two weeks into their college experience, Indiana State freshmen men’s basketball players Alex Etherington and Demetrius Moore stood sentinel as 115 kids ran around them collecting basketballs and getting autographs at the Greg Lansing Basketball Camp on Thursday.
ISU's Johnson invited to World University Games
Indiana State senior Felisha Johnson will be traveling the world this summer after being named to represent the United States in the women’s shot put at the World University Games in Kazan, Russia.
FROM THE PRESS BOX: Close, but no cigar, theme for ISU sports in 2012-13
When I covered my first event of Indiana State’s 2012-13 season — ISU’s opening football game at Indiana — I was the first one in the press box at IU’s Memorial Stadium. I’m never the first one in the press box.
Maybe the prospect of ISU’s season had me so pumped that I decided to get it started close to three hours early? (Or more truthfully, maybe I was over-vigilent about predicted traffic horrors on the Indiana 46 bypass that never came to pass.)
Q&A: ISU football coach Mike Sanford ready for fall
It’s hard to believe, but Mike Sanford has already been Indiana State’s football coach for six months.
Time flies, but Sanford’s task of preparing for his first season in charge of the Sycamores comes with few breaks.
Rex streak ends at 7
The Terre Haute Rex table setters — Kyle Kempf and Tyler Wampler — had three of the team’s eight hits Friday at Bob Warn Field, but the Rex offense found itself in a big early deficit for the first time this season.
Manaea’s selection puts ISU in spotlight
Once the stress and hang-wringing over where Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea might get drafted was over, the angst subsided and was replaced with a happier emotion. Pride.
ISU’s Hope places 13th in NCAA pole vault
Indiana State senior Nicole Hope concluded her final competition of the 2013 outdoor season on Friday as she tied for 13th in the women’s pole vault at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track & Field Championships.
Metro roundup: Former Sycamores take talents to CFL
Former Indiana State players Johnny Towalid and Justin Hilton were signed by teams in the Canadian Football League this week.
Exit Minnesota, enter Oregon State on 2016 football schedule
When the Big Ten Conference implemented a nine-game football schedule starting in 2016 and discouraged members from playing Football Championship Subdivision teams, there was one game on Indiana State’s future schedule that was likely on borrowed time.
ISU’s scheduled game at Minnesota in 2016.
METRO ROUNDUP: Swift reaches finals of NCAA Championships in 110-meter hurdles
Indiana State junior Greggmar Swift will be among the top eight in the NCAA in the 110-meter hurdles after qualifying for Saturday’s finals on Thursday.
Swift ran a time of 13.51 seconds to take third in his heat. He’ll run in either lane 1 or lane 8 on Saturday.
“I got out pretty good and then I hurdled three or four when I got bumped and it threw me off my rhythm,” said Swift, a native of Barbados. “I tried to get back my rhythm … but I held on for the third place.”
ISU's Manaea selected 34th overall by Royals
Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea selected 34th overall by the Kansas City Royals.
Sycamores ready for more NCAA track success
Five of the six Indiana State athletes in Eugene, Ore., already have had some memorable track and field careers for the Sycamores.
But they’ll go ahead and try to add to their list of accomplishments in the NCAA outdoor championships this weekend.
Dustin Betz has been a scorer and key piece of eight Missouri Valley Conference championship teams between track and cross country. He’ll compete today in the 3,000-meter steeplechase as the Sycamores’ second best in the event behind Jordan Fife.
Mike Lucas joins ISU football staff
What traits do head football coaches seek out when they hire position coaches?
Indiana State football coach Mike Sanford provided insight into that question as he hired former Southeast Louisiana head coach Mike Lucas to his staff Tuesday. Lucas will be the Sycamores’ defensive line coach.
“You have to look at your staff and see what you need. I felt like in this particular case, I wanted an experienced defensive line coach. I feel like we have a mixture of experience and youth and I want to keep that going,” Sanford said.
TODD GOLDEN: MVC Tourney can be ISU success story if work is done
Prior to last week’s Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament at Illinois State’s Duffy Bass Field, fear and loathing prevailed in some corners of the conference.
It seemed that Missouri State, Creighton, and most notably, Wichita State, had a monopoly on the season-ending tournament since the Coolidge Administration. (It had actually been since 1998.) How could the tournament make it without playing in one of the three aforementioned universities’ big venues?
- COLLEGE REPORT: Wabash College All-American relay team has TH flavor
Six Sycamores heading to NCAA Track and Field championships
Three Indiana State seniors and a freshman punched their tickets Friday to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in two weeks at Eugene, Ore. Two more got the job done Saturday on the campus of UNC Greensoboro in the East Preliminary.
Sycamores bow out of MVC Tournament
Indiana State’s baseball was out of pitching, and after a loss to Wichita State on Thursday, the Sycamores were out of second-chances too at the Missouri Valley Conference baseball tournament. What the Sycamores weren’t out of was heart, guts and clutch performances from some unlikely sources. But in the end, Friday’s elimination game rematch against the Shockers was a sampling of ISU’s season overall — the Sycamores were out of luck.
Metro Sports: Chalk up No. 5 for Liz Evans
Senior Liz Evans capped the top career in Rose-Hulman athletics history with her fifth national championship and eighth All-American award at Wisconsin-La Crosse on Friday.
Four Indiana State athletes advance to NCAA outdoor track and field championships
Three Indiana State seniors and a freshman have punched their tickets to the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in two weeks at Eugene, Ore., with their Friday efforts in the 2013 NCAA East Preliminary at Aggie Stadium on the campus of North Carolina A&T.
Wichita State shuts out ISU to force elimination-game rematch
Indiana State starting pitcher Greg Kuhlman did his best.
Actually, he did far better than he ever has previously in an ISU uniform, but while Kuhlman’s gutty pitching effort spoke volumes, ISU’s bats remained ominously silent.
Indiana State baseball now one win from MVC Championship
Indiana State’s Wednesday morning wish list probably read something like this: a dominant complete game effort from starting pitcher Devin Moore, near-immaculate defense to support him, and a steady diet of clutch situational hitting from lineup spots one to nine.
Terre Haute's Mascari running 10,000 meters for chance to get to Hayward Field
Indiana State freshman and Terre Haute North graduate John Mascari is among the enormous group of Sycamores competing this weekend at the NCAA East Preliminary. The top 48 NCAA track and field competitors in each event on this half of the United States are narrowed down to 12 who will compete at the NCAA meet at Hayward Field in Eugene, Ore.
Manaea's shoulder causing him latest pain
Indiana State pitcher Sean Manaea has battled through so many aches and pains during the 2013 season that it can be hard to discern the serious pain from the pain he pitches through.
ISU's Negele answers call in big way in wake of Manaea injury
When Indiana State starting pitcher Sean Manaea slumped on the mound in obvious pain after he took his warm-up pitches, red flags raised for ISU’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament hopes.
ISU baseball hoping Manaea can get its MVC Tournament moving in right direction
Indiana State’s baseball team has been waiting all season for its stars to align.
But this is the 2013 Sycamores, after all, and after a season in which seemingly little has gone right, it appears its stars will remain crossed at the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU track sending record 22 to postseason
On the heels of their thrilling double victory at the 2013 Missouri Valley Conference Outdoor Track & Field Championships both the Indiana State men and women moved up in the national rankings which were released Tuesday by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA).
ISU's athletic treasure trove
Think of every championship that Indiana State has won in each of its sports, past and present. Think of every tournament — postseason or regular season — which the Sycamores have claimed as their own.
Ort sets ISU RBI record in 16-7 win
Robby Ort celebrated his Indiana State baseball Senior Day on Saturday by becoming the Sycamores’ all-time leader in RBIs as ISU ended its regular season with a 16-7 win over Bradley at Bob Warn Field.
Bradley ends 16-game MVC losing streak against ISU
Momentum was the only thing riding on Indiana State’s baseball game against Bradley on Friday. With a five-game winning streak going, ISU wanted to keep the good vibes going into next week’s Missouri Valley Conference Tournament.
ISU couldn’t do it.
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