The Rice Owls continued their recent recruiting momentum Saturday evening with a verbal pledge from Katy Taylor TE Connor Cella. The West Houston athlete's verbal gives the Owls 11 commits for the Class of 2012, and another offensive weapon for Offensive Coordinator John Reagan.
Though Cella hasn't ever played Tight End, he moved to the position last year in spring football at Katy Taylor, where area recruiter Larry Edmondson got a glimpse of him in action. The reason he's never played the position is because he's been a mainstay at Defensive End in Taylor's 3-4 Defense. He will play both ways this fall for Coach Flint Risien.
Cella was invited to workout with the Tight Ends at Rice Camp in June and made the most of the opportunity. He was most impressive in a very talented group working at th position that day - all holding Division I scholarship offers including Hamshire-Fannett's Cameron Malveaux, Cy-Woods' Cody Small, Freindswood's Trevor Stevens, and eventual Rice DE commit David Wilganowski. Cella was the only player offered by Rice that day.
His sharp routes and soft hands, combined with his excellent body control made Cella look like he'd been playing the position all his life.
Cella wowed Rice coaches Saturday with the physical tranformation he's accomplished this summer. In early June he weighed 250 at camp, and really looked more like a Defensive Tackle than a skill position player. Saturday he showed up at 243 pounds and was noticeably more lean and defined. Connor attributed the change to hard work, diet and running a lot of routes with his teammates at Taylor.
He chose the Owls over several other scholarship offers - including Air Force, Louisiana-Lafayette, McNeese State, Southeast Louisiana, and Texas State. In fact, his family is relocating to Lafayette - but Cella will stay behind to finish his senior year with his teammates at Taylor.
He had this to say about his pledge to Rice, where he will be rejoined with former Katy Taylor Defensive Tackle Nico Carlson.
"My family and I waited all summer to see what offers I'd be deciding from. We wanted to make the right decision and decided Rice was the best fit for me and no doubt the best education of my options. It's good to have my commit out of the way since we start football (at Taylor) on Monday."
Carlson posted a "shout out" to Cella on his Facebook page late Saturday night welcoming his former teammate to Rice.
Cella also plays basketball for the Mustangs.
Connor Cella Profile
Height: 6-3 1/4
Weight: 243 pounds
40 yard dash: 4.74 seconds at Texas A&M Camp
Shuttle: 4.3 seconds at Rice Camp
Vertical: 32 inches
Bench: 325 pounds
Squat: 535 pounds
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