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LB Konnor Near: The Journey from DII to the Oklahoma Sooners



Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium-Norman Oklahoma
Photo Credit - thecollegerag via Flickr

In this era of the transfer portal in college football, a player deciding to leave their school for a “better” opportunity can make or break a program. And, when you are a two-time national champion and All-American at the DII level, your phone rings off the hook as schools looking for good linebackers come calling.


Such is the case of LB Konnor Near of DII Ferris State and now, the Oklahoma Sooners.


 

Near - Dual Sport High School Athlete

A two-sport star at St. Johns High School in Saint Johns, MI, Near excelled at both football and basketball. Football would take him to the next level though, as Near played running back on offense and linebacker on defense. The Ironman of St. Johns.


Near plays a bruising style of football and played both positions in high school with equal enthusiasm. He loves to be in your face and run downhill like a snowball from hell, gaining speed and leaving behind would-be tacklers and scorched earth in his wake.


In his junior year, Near rushed for a record 354 yards and 6 touchdowns in a 56-43 win over Cadillac High School. After the game, Near praised his teammates for making the blocks and creating the running lanes to allow him to get into space and gain big yardage. The ultimate teammate.


Near was a two-time All-State selection and three-time All-Conference.


When it came time to pick a college, Near chose DII power Ferris State of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC), who had lost in the DII National Championship Game by just two points the previous year.


 

Konnor Near: All-American and National Champion at Ferris State

Near redshirted his freshman season, and the 2020 COVID season was canceled. In 2021, he helped lead the Bulldogs to the DII National Championship. Last season, Ferris State went 14-1. The defense allowed 228 yards per game and allowed their woefully unprepared opponents a paltry 67 yards per game on the ground.


Ferris State won their first five games to start the season. After a one-point loss to Grand Valley State, the Bulldogs reeled off nine straight wins. The Bulldogs were road warriors last season, going 6-0 in the other team’s house on their way to another DII national title.





Near posted nine tackles in a game twice last season: vs Saginaw State and against Grand Valley State in the DII playoffs (along with 3 tackles for loss and a sack).


Near finished the 2022 season with 66 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, and a fumble recovery.

He finished his career at Ferris State with 30 games played, 93 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks. Near earned his degree in Construction Management.


Then the phone started ringing off the hook.


 

Power 5 Schools Come Calling For Near

Near decided to take his talents to the next level and announced he would enter the transfer portal. There was no shortage of interest in this young man’s talent and skills.

Near received offers from the following Power 5 schools:


• Michigan State

• Oklahoma

• West Virginia

• Duke

• Georgia Tech

• Washington State

• Texas Tech


He exited the transfer portal in Norman, Oklahoma, and became a Sooner. Near fills a position of need, as the linebacker room at Oklahoma was almost vacant last season. He will be one of the more experienced linebackers on the Sooners' roster.




The culture shock of moving from the DII level to the Power 5 is a daunting challenge, learning the schemes and verbiage of head coach Brent Venables and defensive coordinator Ted Roof, won't be easy. But it’s a challenge that Near accepts without hesitation.


Whether he plays in front of 10,000 fans in Big Rapids, MI, or in front of 80,000 in Norman, OK, Near is a football player with a high football IQ. And football is football.


He will pursue a master’s degree in Intercollegiate Athletic Administration. Near has two years of eligibility remaining.


The Sooners kick off the 2023 season on September 2nd when they host Arkansas State.













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