“Win whatever’s next”: Connor Colby’s day-by-day approach to becoming one of college football's best interior offensive linemen

• Iowa offensive guard Connor Colby sits down for an exclusive interview with PFF.

• One of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten: Colby was named to PFF’s preseason All-Big Ten first team.

• A dominant pass-protecting guard: Colby surrendered a pressure on just 0.6% of his pass-blocking snaps at left guard in 2022.

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Connor Colby was furious.

It was his first year at Cedar Rapids Kennedy High School in Iowa. And, like most ninth-grade football players, Colby started his career on the freshman team. Still, that wasn't acceptable to him.

“I was mad that I didn’t get moved up to the sophomore team,” Colby said in an exclusive interview with PFF.

It wouldn't take long for him to prove he belonged at a higher level.

“I just dedicated myself to the weight room and worked hard,” Colby said. “That opportunity came my sophomore year to play varsity. Once I got on the field, it was just having fun at that point and realizing that I’m just as strong, if not stronger than the rest of the guys on the field.”

Across his four years for the Cougs, he earned All-State honors in his junior and senior campaigns. He was ranked as a top-150 recruit in the 2021 class and secured offers from college football powerhouses, such as Ohio State and Michigan. But growing up 30 minutes away from his dream school, Colby always knew he wanted to stay home.

“For me, it was always Iowa,” he said. “I know I took a bunch of visits elsewhere, but I always compared it back home to Iowa. That ultimately made my decision to come here and I’ve been happy with it ever since.”

Unlike when he was in high school, Colby saw the field immediately as a freshman. He served as the starting right guard for most of the 2021 season, posting a 76.5 run-blocking grade that led all Power Five true freshmen. Colby credits much of his freshman success to the superstar who lined up to his left: Current Baltimore Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum.

“This is going to sound pretty bad,” Colby said with a laugh. “I knew play calls and stuff like that. But sometimes when I was out there, I’d struggle with who to block. So I just looked at [Linderbaum] before every play and he’d just point at the guy I had to block. We just went from there.”

After Linderbaum was selected in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft, Colby became one of the leaders of the Hawkeyes’ offensive line. He split his time between right tackle and left guard as a sophomore, earning just a 37.4 pass-blocking grade on the season. However, it’s important to contextualize that grade by looking at performance by position.

Connor Colby’s Pass-Blocking Numbers by Position
Position Pass-Blocking Snaps Pass-Blocking Grade Pressure Rate Allowed
Left Guard 175 81.3 0.6%
Right Tackle 184 18.5 10.1%

Unsurprisingly, Colby enjoys lining up along the interior the most. Luckily for him, he’s listed as the Hawkeyes’ starting right guard this season.

“I love playing guard,” he said. “I just like being physical. It’s like a fight in the phone booth every time I’m out there. It’s fun.”

What Colby didn’t enjoy was how much Iowa’s offense struggled last season. In 2022, the Hawkeyes ranked last in the Power Five and third to last nationally in expected points added per play. While there were many reasons for that low mark, Colby pointed the finger at himself.

“It was pretty frustrating,” he said. “A lot of the blame should be on the O-line. We weren’t as good as we needed to be throughout the season. That’s all we can do now is focus on being the best we can be out there every day at practice. Building that cohesiveness as a unit. Hopefully, that shows through on Saturdays.”

Aside from an improved offensive line, a change under center should have Iowa fans optimistic about an offensive bounce-back. Cade McNamara takes over after transferring in from Michigan. In 2021, he quarterbacked the Wolverines to the Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff, beating Colby’s Hawkeyes in the conference title game. With him comes tight end Erick All, a preseason second-team All-Big Ten honoree.

“Cade’s been great,” Colby said. “He’s a great leader. When he first got here, he really took control and got us all going in the right direction again. He raised our standard that we had here. Erick’s the same way, getting us all hyped up for practice and stuff like that. He and Cade are the great leaders that we needed.”

Colby himself was named to PFF’s preseason All-Big Ten first team and is projected to be one of the top interior offensive linemen in the 2024 NFL Draft. Don’t tell him that, though.

“I don’t pay attention to any of that,” Colby said. “I told my parents not to send me any articles. I told my girlfriend not to send me anything. I don’t want to know anything about it. I have to focus on practice every day, blocking our great D-line that we have.”

The junior is taking everything day by day, although he does have some long-term goals in mind.

“Win the West [division], win in Indy, win whatever’s next.”

What’s currently next for him and No. 25 Iowa is the season opener this Saturday against Utah State in Kinnick Stadium.

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