Heading into his senior season, Connor Ebeling had a good feeling about his Elkhorn South High School football team.
“Before the season started, we had a camp in Hastings,” Ebeling said. “Coming out of that camp, we knew we had a team that had a lot of talent and championship potential.”
The Storm lived up to the potential and rolled to a perfect 13-0 season while winning the Nebraska Class B state championship game this past season.
With Ebeling at quarterback, Elkhorn South roared out to a 5-0 start while averaging 47 points a game. “At the camp in Hastings before the season started, the coaches thought I was already in mid-season form,” he said. “Heading into the season, I was 100 percent ready. With NFA and all of the training I’ve done with them, it all came together. I was really confident going into the first game.”
It showed. Ebeling threw 11 touchdown passes through the first five games. In Game 2, he set a school record for most passing yards in a half with 292 against Bennington.
An NFA Blackshirt, Ebeling was one of the top passers in the state through the first five games and he was positioned to shatter even more school records.
But at some point in Game 5 – he still can’t put his finger on the specific play – Ebeling was hit and something didn’t feel right. “I didn’t really know what happened, or when it happened,” he said. “I countinued to play and finished the game. I was in a lot of pain, but I finished it.”
After the game, Ebeling was diagnosed with a partial L5 spinal fracture and a herniated disc. “No surgery,” he said. “But it was a long recovery.”
Doctors told Ebeling it would be three months for the injury to heal, meaning his banner senior season came to a screeching halt. “I was really down at first, but my good friends, teammates and my family picked me up,” Ebeling said. “It was just kind of devastating thinking that everything I worked for just pretty much came to an end.”
Losing a bulk of one season to injury is something that happens to football players on both sides of the ball. It is part of a very physical game. But Ebeling also missed much of his junior year with a concussion.
“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and God has a plan,” Ebeling said. “The injuries, it’s just something freaky, but it’s made me a better person. It’s made me realize that you can never take anything for granted. I cherish every moment I get playing football.”
Ebeling got back on the playing field in the state championship game. Rallying back from a 21-6 deficit against Aurora, Elkhorn South was close to wrapping up a 32-21 win when Storm head coach Guy Rosenberg sent his senior star in to take the final snap and take a knee.
“I think Connor Ebeling is the classiest player I’ve ever coached for the way that he conducted himself,” Rosenberg told the Omaha World Herald. “It was all about the team, not about him.”
Ebeling has always put his team first, and taking the last snap and being on the field for Elkhorn South’s first state title is something he’ll never forget. “That was really cool,” he said. “I’ll always remember that. It was great knowing the coaches were still thinking of me on the final play.”
While he was sidelined with injuries as a junior and senior, Ebeling is going to realize his dream and play college football. In early February, he signed to play at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas.
“I’m really excited,” Ebeling said. “I’m just kind of counting down the days to when I can go play football again. I took a couple visits to Washburn. I went a week before signing day and that pretty much confirmed that I wanted to go there. It just felt right.”
Ebeling is feeling right again, and he’s playing high level flag football once a week to keep his skills sharp. He also played in the River Battle Bowl in late November, helping Team Nebraska beat Team Iowa 21-12 in the inaugural all-star game.
“It was a lot of fun to get back on the field,” Ebeling said. “On my first play, I threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant, a tight end who is going to play college football at Iowa. It was a great experience.”
The next stop is Washburn, and Ebeling is going to red-shirt during his first year of school. “I think with red-shirting, that’s going to help me get used to game speed,” the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder said. “I can also use that time to lift and get bigger. After my red-shirt season, my goal is to go in and compete for a starting position.”
Training with NFA for the past four years has helped Ebeling get to the collegiate level, where he has a very good chance of making an impact. “NFA has really helped me a lot,” Ebeling said. “They tweaked my mechanics. My arm wasn’t getting all the way through on my passes and they helped me with that, too. That’s helped me throw the ball harder and with more accuracy.”
The next time he is under center, Ebeling’s long-time dream will become a reality. “Since I started playing tackle football in third grade, I’ve always loved the sport,” he said. “And I’ve always looked forward to playing football, and playing in college. I can’t wait to get going. I have a strong arm and I am accurate with my passes. I think I can help benefit the team, on and off the field, whether it’s playing or helping my teammates.”