If you asked Lumberton’s Da’Byron Conerly what position he plays, his response is – football.
In fact, when college coaches ask Lumberton coach Jonathan Ladner his answer isn’t much different.
That’s because Conerly plays a lot of positions at such a high level.
“Flip a coin,” Ladner said. “I personally see him as a guy that’s the hybrid, strong safety-linebacker. He’s one of the few kids I have seen that is just a natural tackler. He does a good job of not missing tackles and always being in great body position. But if they put him on offense, then he can be a really good running back or wide receiver at the next level.”
For most of Conerly’s career, he’s been a defensive staple as he has led the Panthers in tackles for three years and recorded 344 career tackles.
But midway through last season, Conerly became Lumberton’s multitool on both offense and defense as injuries forced him to play as many as six different positions, which also included quarterback, running back, wide receiver, linebacker, safety and cornerback.
“I practice at different positions in my off time on the field,” Conerly said. “Like last year, you never know where your name is going to be called at, and when your name is called, you have to be ready to deliver.
“Last year was about stepping up and trying to lead by example. I had to show the guys that your number would be called eventually.”
During the Taylorsville game, Conerly had to take snaps at quarterback, which led to him splitting time between that and running back and will be his primary role for this upcoming season.
“He started out at receiver, then because of injuries, he gets tossed in at running back,” Ladner said. “The next thing you know, he is taking snaps at quarterback for three or four games. He responded like the champion he is. Were there some things that we had to modify and change to fit his skill set? Yes, but that’s with change in any personnel. It didn’t matter what was called; he was going to do his best to execute it. He became one of those guys when it was third and short or fourth and short there wasn’t any question where the ball was going.”
Conerly threw 17-for-26, 285 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 547 yards and nine touchdowns. Not to mention, he hauled in 17 catches for 309 yards and six touchdowns.
“He does so many great things,” Ladner said. “He plays in space well at receiver. He hits the hole hard at running back. He can make every throw from quarterback. He’s a dual-threat guy and can run. You turn him around on defense, and he has led us in tackles for three straight years. Even with being bounced around last year from linebacker to strong safety and corner, he still found a way to the ball and made tackles and plays. The only other thing I could ask is for him to go home and fix my kitchen sink from leaking.”
Unlike last year, this season Conerly will be expected to be on the field for almost every snap on each side of the ball, which is something he embraces since it’s part of Lumberton’s culture and is something he hopes to uphold.
“You can never be satisfied, at least until the clock hits zero,” Conerly said. “At our school, it means that to know you gave it your all, you did everything out there, that you led your teammates and cheered them on, and you went and executed and showed people what you do outside of the field can translate on to the field. You just have to put the work on.
“It’s really just a matter of hoping that the younger guys can step up into those roles. You have to focus on what’s ahead and pushing the team forward, and hopefully win that last ball game.”