Connor Kavanaugh (Lincoln, 2007)

Connor KavanaughConnor Kavanaugh

Connor Kavanaugh (Lincoln, 2007)

July 2023 ~

It’s been a while since Connor Kavanaugh (Lincoln, 2007) held a football that wasn’t a memento from the days when he was slinging them around as if they were hot to the touch.

“I haven’t thrown a football in maybe five years,” says the 2017 inductee into the PIL Hall of Fame. “I don’t think I even own a football that’s not in a glass case.”

Given how prolific a passer he was during a stellar career that started at Lincoln and didn’t end until he graduated from Portland State University, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that more than a decade later Connor was still letting his arm recuperate.

At Lincoln, he led the state in passing yards and touchdown passes two consecutive years. As a junior, Connor led the Cardinal to the state championship game, throwing for 3,416 yards — the eighth-highest single season total in Oregon history to that point. He also ran for more than 400 yards and scored 44 touchdowns on his way to earning 1st Team and Offensive Player of the Year in the PIL and 1st Team All-State.

The next year, he tossed for 3,283 yards and 34 TDs, again leading the state and achieving 1st Team All-PIL and Offensive Player of the Year status, in addition to being named Oregon Gatorade Player of the Year.

For those keeping score at home, Connor’s high school totals (including his sophomore year) were 6,821 yards and 72 touchdowns passing. He also ran for 965 yards and 13 scores.

Connor Kavanaugh (far left) and his Lincoln teammates celebrate their 2005 PIL championship game 17-14 win over Grant.

Connor Kavanaugh (far left) and his Lincoln teammates celebrate their 2005 PIL championship game 17-14 win over Grant.

All of which is to say, when you add in his college totals, yes, that’s several years’ worth of heavy-duty arm exercise but, no, that’s not why he’s still not airing it out on occasion. He’s just got plenty of other stuff to do — like running a business, playing a little golf and “chasing three kids around.”

For the record, he’s also not playing much basketball these days, and he was no slouch at that sport either, earning four letters and 1st Team All-PIL status as a senior.

Life has a way of pushing the past ever further behind a fellow, no matter how memorable it was. That’s just fine with Connor, who’s now living in Central Oregon’s Powell Butte, where he leads from afar Lake Oswego-based Palladia Consulting, a financial planning and investment advisory firm dedicated to helping people with disabilities.

“I have an older brother (Taylor) who played football at Oregon State, and our dad (Dan) talks way more about our athletic careers than we do,” Connor says.

It’s hard to blame a dad for reliving his son’s past achievements, which started when Connor was a 4th grader at Bridlemile School with an interest in football but no team to play for other than the ones he and his brother and cousins would piece together for backyard clashes wearing helmets and pads they’d pick up at garage sales or thrift stores.

“There was no 3rd-and-4th grade team at the time,” Connor remembers. “So, my dad called the coach who ran the 5th-and-6th grade team and said, ‘I have a 4th grader who wants to play. Is there any way he can play on your team?’ I think if he made that call today, it doesn’t happen. But back then the coach said, ‘If you have a 4th grade who likes to play and doesn’t mind getting run over by older kids, bring him on down’.”

Connor considers this a seminal moment in his early player development.

“It was a great experience. If you play above your age, it makes you learn a lot quicker,” he says.

Connor didn’t care what position he played, as long as he played. So, he didn’t try quarterbacking until 6th grade when a coach figured out he could throw the ball downfield at an age when not many kids can. Still, he didn’t take on the position full-time until 8th grade when his team’s starter was injured.

As much as Connor enjoyed football, basketball was his first love. “I played AAU and on traveling basketball teams as far back as 5th grade,” he says. “I would say I was better at basketball than football. I thought it was going to be my ticket to college.”

At Lincoln, Connor played sparingly at the varsity level in both sports his freshman and sophomore years, instead honing his skills and knowledge of the game on junior varsity teams. Once he was elevated to the varsity basketball team his junior year, the Cardinals suffered through a 4-20 season, which led to both a change of coaches and team fortunes.

The new coach was David Adleman, making his first stop on a coaching career that would lead to the NBA and his current position as lead assistant for the 2023 NBA champion Denver Nuggets.

Benefiting not only from David’s skills but also the regular presence at practice of his father, longtime Blazer coach Rick Adleman, the Cardinals won the PIL title Connor’s senior year, and he earned 1st Team All-PIL honors as the squad’s 5-10 point guard.

“I think averaged 14 or 15 points a game,” he says. “I wasn’t a huge scorer, but I loved playing defense, facilitating and being the floor leader. We wound up losing in the second round of playoffs, but it was an incredible experience. David was a really good coach, and it was a really good way to end my basketball career.”

It was also Connor’s chance to reach a level of success on the hardwood closer to what he had achieved on the football field the previous two years. Going into his junior season, Connor had advanced to the varsity, but would have to beat out another teammate to win the starting quarterback job.

“Our coach (Chad Carlson) was adamant about players not playing both ways, so I was battling it out with another guy who played linebacker,” Connor remembers. “So, I’m still not sure I won the job because I beat him out or because they wanted him to play linebacker. But I was a good leader and had the ability to make plays.”

The Cardinals opened the 2005 season by beating Crater 38-7, ushering in the two-year era of Air Kavanaugh.

“A lot of our success came from just spreading the field out, throwing the ball around, me knowing the offense and getting the ball into the right hands,” Connor says.

The more he threw, and the Cardinals won, the more Connor’s confidence as a QB and leader grew.

“Everything just kind of snowballed. It’s funny how confidence plays such a big part in success. I’m not sure I got that much better during the year, but I got a lot more confident in my abilities.”

Lincoln won the PIL that year and made it to the state championship game, where they lost to Jesuit 14-10 in a classic clash. That was one of only three losses Connor would experience over his junior and senior seasons while leading the Cardinals to 21 wins.

One of the most memorable of those, a 56-28 drubbing of North Medford in the quarterfinals of the state playoffs, came during Connor’s junior year. “I think I threw for five touchdowns and ran for two or three others,” he remembers. “That was a good memory.”

It was while preparing for that game that Connor got a visit and scholarship offer from Portland State coach Tim Walsh. “It was kind of surreal,” he says. “I had gone from entering fall camp as a former junior varsity player battling for the starting quarterback spot to a college scholarship offer just three months later.”

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Connor’s play had also caught the attention of the University of Idaho, led at the time by former Oregon State head coach Dennis Erickson and offensive coordinator Jonathan Smith, the former Beaver QB and current OSU head coach.

Having grown up a big Beaver fan, Connor was hoping he’d get the chance to play for Erickson and Smith at Idaho, but both left for other jobs before he could receive an offer.

So, at the end of his decorated stay at a Lincoln, which also included competing on the Cardinals’ track and field team, Connor took up residency virtually across the street in downtown Portland at PSU.

He played for three coaches in four seasons, plus a redshirt year, including former NFL head coach Jerry Glanville. After starting four games as a sophomore, Connor earned the job full-time his junior year, playing eight games before being sidelined with a broken hand. As a senior, he started every game, led the Vikings to a 7-3 record and third-place finish in the Big Sky Conference and matched the all-league honorable mention honor he’d earned his junior season.

Connor left PSU not only with some great football memories, including playing the Ducks at Autzen Stadium and setting the Vikings’ record for rushing yards for a QB, but also his future wife, Lexi, who played for the women’s basketball team.

Just five years after graduating, he was inducted into the PIL Hall of Fame.

“I’m a very nostalgic PIL alum,” he says. “From growing up going to Lincoln camps to traveling to Jefferson and Marshall and playing under the lights at Franklin, those are really good memories. So, when I was inducted into the Hall of Fame, I was very honored to be part of the PIL legacy forever. This is definitely something you can tell your kids.”

Connor’s three kids are all under 4 now, but in a blink of an eye they’ll be old enough to appreciate their dad’s accomplishments. That could be around the same time Connor has to start limbering up his throwing arm again.

“If they start showing a little interest when they get a little older, we’ll definitely have a few more footballs around the house,” he says.

Do you know Connor? He can be reached at connor@palladioplanning.com


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