Dakota Conwell stood on the Arizona Wildcats sideline, where he spent most of his time as a freshman.
Watching his teammates play against rival Arizona State, Conwell was tapped on the shoulder in the second quarter by defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and told to go in.
He had played sparingly up to that point in the season, but was about to get his big chance.
Of course, he first had to get over the fact that there were 51,901 fans in the stadium and that, for his Wildcats, there was no bigger game than the Sun Devils.
“I specifically remember the first play,” Conwell said. “You run out there and it’s like, ‘OK, this is what I’ve been preparing for my entire life.’ ”
The Wildcats lost 41-34, but the true freshman linebacker made his presence felt with six tackles, including one for a loss.
The Pittsburgh native was the Wildcats’ only four-star recruit in coach Rich Rodriguez’s first recruiting class and was forced into action in his first season because of a lack of depth on the defensive side.
Conwell battled multiple injuries, adjusted to being more than 2,100 miles away from home and got his first taste of college life.
But, the 6-foot-2-inch, 217-pound linebacker still impressed coaches.
Fast forward to this spring and Conwell is trying to become a staple of Casteel’s defense and a bigger factor in 2013.
He had a foot injury in the beginning of the season and then missed the New Mexico Bowl because of wrist surgery.
“Dakota still has a little bit of a banged-up hand, but he’s gotten better,” Rodriguez said. “He played some as a true freshman before he was ready and hopefully that experience will help him.”
Find out what Conwell is looking forward to in year two, in Monday's Arizona Daily Star.