Cash Conder likes to smile. But it was a straight faced comment from head coach P.J. Fleck that sold the 6-foot-0 190 pound wide receiver out of the Lone Star State.
"I'm a smiler," Conder recalled of the moment he ultimately decided to give the Broncos his pledge. "I'm always smiling."
"Coach Fleck looked at me and said, ‘If you commit to WMU and Texas rolls in in a week or two, you better tell them [no thanks].' I looked back at Coach Fleck and he wasn't smiling. After that, I was pretty sold. That was kind of the home run."
It's rare enough that a player from the state of Texas gets lured north to the Mid American Conference, let alone to Western Michigan. But the story just goes to show that a little bit of happenstance and good timing can go a long way.
Shortly after he was hired at Western Michigan, Fleck went out and researched new field turf for Waldo Stadium and the Seelye Center (WMU's indoor practice facility). Little did he know one year ago that a business trip to Texas would pay off in the long-term in more ways than one.
"I was talking to Coach Fleck," Conder explained. "My school put in new fieldturf, and the company that put it in brought Coach Fleck out to come and look at it. We were one of the only schools in Texas that had it."
From there, Fleck and the WMU coaching staff kept close tabs on Conder and the rest is history. Conder and his father visited Kalamazoo a few weeks ago, and decided to commit based on the coaching staff and the perceived upward trajectory of the program,
"The biggest thing that stood out to me was that I thought there was only room for WMU to go in one direction and that's up," said Conder.
"I like that the coaching staff is young. When I met with Coach Simon and Coach Fleck, it was like I was hanging out with an older teammate. I liked that."
"When I talked to Coach Fleck, he told me a story about how he didn't get very many looks in high school and how he led the state of Illinois in a lot of receiving categories. Someone gave him a chance and Coach Fleck is giving me a chance. I want to have the same story Coach Fleck has one day."
Conder's only other offer comes from Akron, but he's getting interest from a whole host of other schools such as East Carolina, Indiana, Louisiana-Monroe, Louisiana Tech, Miami (OH), Michigan State, MTSU, North Texas, SMU, Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Tulsa, UTEP, and Vanderbilt.
Because of his geographical location in the country, Conder is obviously more familiar with mid-major conferences like Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference. But his perception of the Mid-American Conference seems positive, and his commitment to WMU confirms such.
"I think the Mid-American Conference up there is a lot like the Conference USA down here," said Conder. "I don't see much difference between the two."
"Coach (Matt) Simon and coach (Steve) Shimko told me about the CMU rivalry and the Cannon Trophy," Conder added. "They told me all about that."
"Getting a chance to be in a game, and of course the MAC Championship game sounds exciting."
Conder says the WMU coaching staff sees him the role of being a possession receiver who can help the Broncos move the chains.
"I'm not the fastest kid on the field, but I think my strongest attribute is my hands. I think I can catch just about anything. I'm not going to score a 60-yard touchdown, but I feel like I can move the chains and set us up for a score."
"Coach Fleck told me that's the kind of part he played at Northern Illinois and that took him to the NFL. So that made me pretty stoked to hear that."
Conder says he doesn't have any summer camps or visits scheduled, but does plan to come back to Kalamazoo in the fall for a couple of home games.
"I'm pretty dead set on Western Michigan," Conder said of his commitment to the Broncos.
"Other schools keep coming to talk to me at my school -- about 3-4 schools a week -- but I'm pretty dead set. I'm a huge coach Fleck fan."