Mater Dei, Bishop McDevitt, Crenshaw ... 

May, 13, 2010

It's doubtful you'll find a world literature teacher anywhere on the globe who has crafted more big-time offensive linemen than Jay Connolly.

The guy has been teaching and coaching, both in and out of the classroom, for three decades at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He's produced so many college O-linemen that he's lost track.

"Maybe 30? 35?" he guessed.

His teaching works well with what he does for the Raiders' football program. "I teach on the football field. I coach in the classroom," he said. "Being a coach helps me in the classroom. Kids sometimes don't want to just be given information. They really need to want to learn. They need to get excited. They need to be coached up. It needs to be fun."

When you win as much as Aquinas has, it's often fun. The program has won five state titles since 1992 -- so forgive Connolly if he's lost track of the number of linemen the school has produced. Let's just say the O-line pipeline from Aquinas has been going strong for a while. Connolly, who has been a part of the program since the '70s and took over as the line coach in 1990, can boast of having coached offensive tackles who this fall will start at each of Florida's big three programs (Andrew Datko for the Florida State Seminoles, Marcus Gilbert for the Florida Gators and Jermaine Johnson for the Miami Hurricanes) as well as for the UCF Knights (Nick Pieschel). And he'll have produced the anchor (Dan Wenger) to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish's offensive front.