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Overview of The Level After

Conley, Sean. The Level After: How One Resilient Kicker Discovered there was Extra to Life than the NFL. Lyons Press, 2020. Pp. 258. Acknowledgments, epilogue, index, images, pregame (prologue). $29.95 hardback.

Reviewed by Bob D’Angelo

There may be nothing sentimental in regards to the NFL. It’s a enterprise, and it chews up gamers and spits them out like a meat grinder.

Reaching the NFL is a feat. Staying there’s the larger problem. For each success story — and there are numerous — there are a whole bunch of gamers who had the expertise and the will, however by no means made it within the league.

Sean Conley falls within the second class.

Life goes on after professional soccer. That’s a part of the story in Conley’s participating and poignant autobiography, The Level After: How One Resilient Kicker Discovered there was Extra to Life than the NFL.

Lyons, 2020.

Conley has an inspiring story line. Identified with ADHD when he was 10, Conley struggled to focus in class and invariably discovered himself in hassle. Within the sixth grade, he put staples right into a chair on the desk subsequent to him — a lady sat down on them and lower her legs. A number of weeks later, whereas serving as an altar boy throughout a funeral mass, Conley stole a bag of communion hosts. Expulsion was averted when the priest famous that as a result of the hosts weren’t blessed, it was not “an enormous deal.

Conley had two obsessions whereas rising up in Erie, Pennsylvania. The primary was to turn out to be a kicker within the NFL — “It was kicking a ball by way of the uprights that gave me probably the most pleasure,” he writes.

Whereas he attended a highschool that had no soccer program after which went to a Division III faculty, he ultimately walked on on the College of Pittsburgh, the place he would earn athletic and tutorial honors. Conley could be signed by three totally different NFL groups however was lower by each earlier than the common season started.

Conley’s second long-standing obsession was to win the hand of Mercyhurst Prep college classmate, Karen DiPlacido.

Fortunately, that second obsession was probably the most rewarding. Sean and Karen Conley celebrated their twenty eighth wedding ceremony anniversary on Feb. 10, and their marriage has produced 4 kids. The couple additionally owns Superb Yoga, which has three areas in Pittsburgh. It was Karen Conley’s love of yoga and her persistence that allowed her husband to concentrate on life after soccer. The Conleys additionally wrote the 2010 guide, Superb Yoga.

In The Level After, Sean Conley tells an inspiring story with heat and candor. He tends to beat himself up as he recounts his failures in faculty and the professionals. At instances, “I used to be like a drunken gardener with a sprig hose” Conley writes about his missed kicks. Don’t be fooled. Conley had some high quality moments as a kicker.

Kickers function on an emotional island. Make a kick and also you’re all people’s pal. Miss it or have it blocked, and you’re shunned just like the plague.

The great recollections: After Pitt defeated Temple 27-20 in 1992, Conley was named the Large East particular groups participant of the week for the second time, changing subject targets of 44 and 47 yards and three additional factors. Taking part in for Division III Gannon on Sept. 15, 1990, Conley kicked two subject targets and made two additional factors in a 20-10 victory towards Hobart. Gannon’s soccer program had been revived after a four-decade hiatus, so it was the varsity’s first victory since 1950. He was named to The Related Press All-East crew in 1992, and was certainly one of 4 Pitt gamers from the 1992 squad named to the Large East Convention’s All-Educational crew.

The unhealthy recollections: Whereas taking part in for Pitt in November 1992, Conley had an extra-point try blocked by Penn State’s Tyoka Jackson. Teammate Lee Rubin picked it up and ran 82 yards for a 2-point conversion. As an alternative of trailing 14-7, the Panthers all of a sudden have been shedding 16-6 and the momentum had modified. The story in Instances-Chief of Wilkes-Barre the following day known as the block “the play of the sport.” The primary 11 paragraphs of the story centered on the play, whilst Pitt misplaced the sport 57-13. The Every day Information of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, was much less charitable, noting that due to that play, the “the Battle of Pennsylvania became the Bloodbath at Beaver Stadium.” Such is the lifetime of a kicker. 3 times through the Nineteen Nineties, an NFL crew signed Conley: the Detroit Lions, the Indianapolis Colts and the New York Jets. He was lower by all three.

In The Level After, Conley provides the reader perspective in regards to the professional soccer locker room and the general environment. He notes that his profession ended prematurely as a result of he overtrained, kicking too many footballs through the offseason. For instance, through the Colts’ coaching camp in 1994, Conley was requested to take the majority of the kicks whereas starter Dean Biasucci rested. “As the brand new man, I needed to hold kicking,” Conley writes. “From the sidelines, Dean noticed my leg energy dwindling. He might see his competitors knock itself out of rivalry.” When Conley requested particular groups coach Tom Batta for a break, the reply was predictable. “You’re a brand new man who wants to return in right here and present what you are able to do,” Conley quotes Batta as saying. “Get able to kick in the present day. Suck it up.”

When Conley tried out for the Jets, starter Nick Lowery additionally resorted to what Conley known as “the veteran trick of the commerce,” sitting out whereas the younger kicker booted away. Conley had no selection. The consequence? His proper hip flexor would degenerate from overuse. He might nail lengthy subject targets, however Conley’s incapability to persistently put kickoffs into the top zone led to his launch from every crew.

Nonetheless satisfied he might play, Conley signed with the Scottish Claymores of the World League of American Soccer. After taking part in for six weeks, he waited for a name from an NFL crew. None got here, “a actuality I by no means wished to just accept.” “I had an dependancy,” Conley writes. “I knew what I used to be saying to myself now was self-destructive to my well-being. However I felt powerless to finish it…. My thoughts was polluted by my need to have issues the best way they need to be.” Conley thought of signing with the Albany Firebirds of the Area Soccer League however walked away even after being supplied a contract. His soccer chapter had ended, however a brand new one was about to start.

Conley first started doing yoga in 1994, when his spouse was pregnant with their first little one. She would ultimately flip it right into a enterprise, and Sean would depart his job in pharmaceutical gross sales to assist. He grew to become satisfied after Baron Baptiste used yoga to assist practice members of the Philadelphia Eagles — and likewise after struggling one spasm he known as “a Corridor of Famer for ache.”

Baptiste, the son of two American yoga pioneers, is credited for “westernizing” yoga, eradicating the non secular elements to make U.S. prospects extra comfy with the idea. It was not a straightforward promote to professional athletes, however they quickly embraced yoga.“Each athlete is skeptical at first,” Karen Conley advised the Pittsburgh Submit-Gazette in a 2008 interview. “The media portrays yoga as a meditative observe.”

Sean Conley described his expertise as “euphoric.” “I actually favored this sense,” he writes. “I would possibly even give this one other shot.” He did, and even grew to become a instructor in 2004, mixing in humor to cowl up his occasional omission. In his spouse’s yoga books, “the yogis had critical appears like they have been attempting to unravel a math downside whereas attempting out for the Cirque de Soleil.” Conley used jokes to create his personal educating type, and it labored.

There are a number of heroes in The Level After. Along with his spouse, Conley was helped vastly by Pitt particular groups coach Amos Jones, a disciple of legendary Alabama soccer coach Paul “Bear” Bryant. Jones was a “badass Andy Griffith, delivering sudden one-liners that would knock you flat,” Conley writes. Like, “what good is it in case your (footballs) land on Mars when they’re purported to land on the moon?” However what Jones actually supplied was perception in Conley’s capability. “These different kickers can’t even maintain your doggone jockstrap,” Conley quotes Jones as telling him earlier than Pitt’s 1992 season opener. “I imagine in you.”

Larry “Deacon Larry” Richards was a priest with “a booming voice” who drove Conley to Youngstown, Ohio, for a courtroom date for a DUI cost. Later often called “Father Larry,” he additionally endorsed the Conleys when Karen grew to become pregnant along with her first little one. Richards’ aunt gave the couple the “Father Larry” deal when Sean purchased an engagement ring. Conley’s father additionally performed a key position, signing his son up for a Punt, Go and Kick contest when the boy was 8. His mild demeanor, kindness and constructive perspective have been traits {that a} son might construct on.

The Level After is not only a guide about soccer. Removed from it. It’s the story of a person who had a dream and labored onerous to attain it. However when Sean Conley’s soccer dream ended, he pivoted and have become a devoted household man and a profitable businessman. These are life’s biggest challenges, and Conley has met them with the identical clean effort he had when he was nailing 45-yard subject targets in faculty.

Bob D’Angelo was a sports activities journalist and sports activities copy editor for greater than three many years and is at present a digital nationwide content material editor for Cox Media Group. He obtained his grasp’s diploma in historical past from Southern New Hampshire College in Might 2018. He’s the creator of By no means Worry: The Life & Instances of Forest Okay. Ferguson Jr. (2015), critiques books on his weblog, Bob D’Angelo’s Books & Blogs, and hosts a sports activities podcast channel on the New Books Community.


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