Editors Update 10-11-5:02: Someone- not me - reported the incident to the Sheriff's Office who has reported to a local TV station that at this time they do not believe a crime has been committed. No word on what led them to that belief.
Parents from Wilsonville have now called me in response to this article. All said sources they have talked to say this is true including their own kids who have seen this rumored film. This story now becomes more about what happened and if anything is being covered up. There is a mandatory reporters law in Oregon and it applies to every Coach and every teacher and administrator at every school. WARNING TO YOU ALL - IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS FILM AND IF IT RISES TO A CRIME OR VIOLATION OF THE YOUNG MAN IN THE VIDEOS RIGHTS YOU MUST REPORT IT OR YOU CAN/WILL BE PROSECUTED- AS YOU SHOULD BE! I am urging those with information to anonymously call the Clackamas County authorities to report what you know. Their number is 971-673-7112 . Read Up Folks because the buck stops here. If something has happened here it will come out. Again I am not saying anything has happened. So let's see.
Flashback-2004: I still remember the speech I heard in 2004 from Wilsonville Head Football Coach George Crace. It was a speech known as A Champions Heart. George was addressing a group of players and coaches as the sun was setting to the South after a hot day of competition. I was lucky enough to be there with them and to hear the words he spoke that still echo over that field.
The brotherhood was amazing and the Champions Heart speech stayed with me forever. You could see the tears falling from the boys and the love and energy flowing from Crace as he spoke.
Woven into that speech was the story or John Walls; a Wildcat for the ages who had a chance to be great and to play for the team as a freshmen but who had his life and his football career taken from him by Cancer; Acute Myleoid Leukemia to be exact. He drove his team mates on even as he was dying that season. A season where the Cats would beat powerhouse Sherwood on December 11th at Autzen Stadium 37-13.
As an analyst and son of a Head Coach myself I can say that these boys and that speech stuck with me. Walls and Crace and that whole group did. More than anything it was the character and the class and poise of these Wilsonville boys. Despite loosing Walls they were forever together as a family. This in my view is as good as it can get. Together indelibly etched in history they all live on.
Last Night I had a Coach message me wanting to know what the heck was happening in Wilsonville. Specifically he asked me why 4 Star Quarterback and WSU commit Connor Neville had been suspended. Honestly I knew nothing and because the call seemed important I told the Coach I would find out more. Now this was not a WSU Coach. So please know that. But it was a concerned party I respect who had a sincere interest.
I searched the web and found only a small thread in the Oregonian from Friday. No explanation had been given but someone had commented the following:
"Connor was suspended because he recorded a video of a special needs kid at the high school and sent it to people and posted it online making fun of him."
This did not sound right but it did not seem impossible. After making a few inquiries it appeared rumors were flying. Everything from drugs to hazing to some sort of public shaming or bullying of a kid was what the buzz was.
Something was very wrong so yesterday evening I tweeted for Connor to contact me. Like most top recruits I have observed him play and be recruited.
Neville responded within minutes and what followed was a brief series of messages in which I asked him what happened and he told me he could not speak about it and that I needed to call his Coach. He however intimated that he was back with the team and that he was moving on. He would not discuss what happened and I am going to say that he seemed comfortable things were being handled, that he and the team wanted to let it go, and that he too had been hurt and let people down. He also said that he had stepped up and that his Coach had the rest handled.
At 8:30 AM my phone rang and Wilsonville Head Coach Adam Guenther explained to me what he could and that this was being handled. I so respect Coach so please understand we know he is in an impossible position. Coach has helped many kids achieve great success and gives his all to his kids.
We exchanged niceties and said our regards. No official statement was offered other than that Connor would be back this week.
I believe Coach. He is "all in" for his boys. I am just not sure after hearing from 3 parents at Wilsonville today that called me that Neville is someone Coach should be backing up.
I have never ever thrown a kid under the bus and I won't start now. But do not mistake my being a football insider to mean I will stand by and agree to be complacent if a crime has been committed or if an egregious act has been perpetrated against a helpless person.
Connor is not a kid. Make no mistake about that. He is 19 years old right now and a man among boys on most nights. He is a tremendous football talent. And you know what? I could care less.
It is hard not to ask questions after hearing today from several people in the program that he (Neville) has more or less poisoned the water at Wilsonville and acted inappropriately on a number of occasions. Is it true? I don't know but it raises eyebrows.
All 3 who contacted me say that they believe he did make a tape of a handicapped student and said tape reportedly had a sexual element to it and was purposefully distributed by Neville to belittle or degrade the child. Is that true? God above I hope not because that could rise to a criminal level.
One thing is for sure. Wilsonville is in a mess right now I think and it appears they know it. What they do next is the big question!
It sounds like if there is a film a lot of people saw it or may have it. All the more reason to clear this up now. Then again there may be no tape. Nothing may have happened at all as I previously stated.
I do not know what has happened. For my part I have to ask because people with knowledge of any wrong doing to a child have a duty under law to report. It is known as the mandatory reporters law.
FOR THE RECORD!!!! I HATE THIS SORT OF THING. CONNOR WOULD NOT TALK. COACH CAN NOT TALK ABOUT IT. WHY AM I WRITING THIS AND RISKING MY REPUTATION???
I will tell you why.
All I am doing is asking a question. I am forced to ask this because of the nature of this possible event and because someone innocent and unable to fend for themself , possibly a minor. may have been harmed. May have. Because of that I have an obligation under law to ask. If someone knows facts beyond this they are under a mandatory obligation to report.
What really happened?
In this day of anti-bullying I will be damned if I am going to sit by and not ask a simple question. If this rumor is even 1/2 truth then Connor Neville should not be on a football field at all. No one- not one player -should be allowed to perpetrate anything like this and be allowed to play this great game in my opinion.
I am holding out for the facts and hope that this is inaccurate information. Again all this is hearsay and I am not saying he did anything.
If this info flying around is wrong and Connor has done nothing then by God someone representing him better step up and clarify what happened. I gave plenty of time and opportunity for those concerned to go on the record. They have stated they will not.
What if he was Black?
White privilege makes me sick. It makes us all sick I hope. If a black athlete, a man mind you 19 years old, was accused of something like this and was suspended because of it I am sure we can all agree it that he would be suspended for more than 1 game. I am willing to bet you he would be out of the school and having to speak to authorities.
Where is it exactly that we draw the line? Who is it that holds people accountable anymore? Because anymore no one seems to hold anyone accountable.
This smacks of privilege. Again I might be wrong but it sure does not look good from the not so cheap seats. So lets draw the line here shall we?
What would I do?
If this happened in my home, and again there was truth to it, we would drop football for this year and dedicate the rest of the year to trying to make amends. No day would pass that this would not be discussed. We would not move on. We would move through it and do the right things. Especially if our son ever expected to have his college paid for and honor the traditions of the great game. Only then would I feel good about things.
Unfair to Parents and Kids-
The parents at Wilsonville that contacted me are very upset and they share one thing in common. They love their kids. They want their kids to play and have a great experience. Everyone of them feel they can not say anything for fear of reprisals but do want more done about this. To be honest they all want this handled better. They feel this issue will destroy the team and could care less about winning. And I can appreciate their situation because we have seen it when our children played. Most of you reading this probably know that feeling of wanting to say something but feeling you can not. I get it.
That part should not be that way. Parents should band together and meet with their coaches and AD's and Superintendents whenever they wish if something is wrong that needs to be fixed. The good kids at Wilsonville deserve to have everyone thinking highly of them.
A Champions Heart is Still Beating at Wilsonville
The most heartfelt thing that I heard today was that it was very unfair for the other boys at Wilsonville to be painted with the brush from this incident. The boys there are great kids. One bad incident could paint them all. That concern I heard from 2 parents on 2 separate phone calls and they both say the sentiment runs deep.
John Walls is still roaming those halls and that field and the boys of 2004, who I am certain had their own issues, would not want anything bad to happen to their program.
The question is now what will happen next?
I am asking on behalf of every parent and student athlete who ever played the game of football and the fans and communities that we as a body have better transparency on these issues.
I am asking that we hold our athletes 100% accountable and that we do it consistently and systematically.
This is not my job but who are parents supposed to turn to? Because of that I am here to accept texts and emails on this or any other issues plaguing our student athletes and the Friday Night Experience. If nothing else I will try to help!
Dirk Knudsen- 503-799-8383
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