Strong words, but even more powerful when you hear the story behind them. They’re from Connor McKemey, an incoming freshman at High Point University.
In 2008, McKemey suffered third degree burns over 87 percent of his body in an outdoor fireplace accident at his home in Fort Mill, S.C. Doctors put him in a 10 week induced coma to help him recover. Suddenly, the three sport athlete was being told sports were no longer an option; his bones were brittle, he had lost more than 50 pounds and portions of his hands were gone.
That’s what he was told, but McKemey didn’t listen. He worked hard to get back on his feet, walking and eventually running. Two to three months after he had started running again, McKemey was back on the lacrosse field.
“It was difficult, but I knew I had to get stronger and keep believing in myself,” says McKemey. “I kept exercising so I could finish my season off on a strong note.”
McKemey says staying in shape was a constant battle.
“Every summer I would have a major operation, like skin grafts, and one summer I broke my toe,” he says. “The surgeries would put me out for a couple of weeks and I would have to work to get back in shape.”
That dedication was evident when McKemey attended one of High Point University’s lacrosse clinics the summer after his sophomore year of high school. High Point University’s men’s lacrosse coach, Jon Torpey, reached out to McKemey after reading an article about the athlete in US Lacrosse magazine, where McKemey said one of his dreams was to attend HPU.
“Coach Torpey is one of the biggest reasons I chose HPU,” explains McKemey. “He’s doing great things with the team, and I just wanted to be a part of it in any way I could.”
“We basically read our potential athletes the riot act,” says Torpey. “I tell them it’s not going to be all fun and games. We get up at 6 a.m., sometimes 5:30 a.m., for long and difficult practices. Connor’s eyes lit up when I said that; he was so excited. That shows passion.”
Now, McKemey is bringing that passion, dedication and incredible attitude to HPU’s men’s lacrosse team as their manager. He’ll attend practices and games with the team, and help the coaches in anything they need, from moving equipment to acting as another opinion on how the team can improve.
“My dream is to coach lacrosse,” says McKemey. “This opportunity will allow me to be involved with the team and set me up for the future.”
“That was one of the biggest reasons this was an easy ‘Yes,’” says Torpey. “He will be another set of eyes and ears on the field for the coaches, and will be able to act as a bridge between the players and coaches. He’ll also get on-the-job training over the next four years, so this is a real win-win for everyone.”
McKemey plans to major in mass communication and minor in sports management to give him the practical skills he’ll need to become a lacrosse coach.
Torpey says he knew McKemey would be a perfect fit for the team as soon as he met him.
“We look for good guys who are dedicated, have a passion for the sport and value their education,” says Torpey. “Connor is one of those guys. He’s funny, personable, a nice kid. He’s also one of the angriest players I’ve ever seen,” Torpey laughs as he continues, “He’s aggressive. He’ll bring a little extra edge to the team. He’s the total package.”
McKemey’s spirit of “anything can be done” is the spirit High Point University strives to instill in all of our students by believing in them.
As HPU President Nido Qubein says, “We tell them we believe in them, and then we show them we believe – by providing them with abundant opportunities.”