The Washington Redskins did not select a quarterback in the 2015 NFL draft, but they did sign one as an undrafted free agent. Connor Halliday spent five years at Washington State, setting program records with 11,304 passing yards and 90 touchdown passes. He will be one of roughly four dozen participants in Washington’s rookie mini camp, which begins Friday. The Washington Times caught up with Halliday to talk about his draft day experience, his collegiate career and his transition to the NFL.
Question: When did you get to town? What have the first few days been like?
Connor Halliday: Yeah I got here Sunday. It’s been real great ever since. I really appreciate the opportunity that Coach Gruden and Mr. McCloughan are giving me. Ever since I’ve been here, we have quarterback meetings in the morning, then we’re out on the field for drills. Then lifting and running in the afternoon. More meetings. Then get back to the hotel around 5 [o’clock], and usually lay down and decompress a little bit, then get back in the playbook.
Q: Let’s rewind a few weeks. What was your mentality going into the draft? Did you expect to be drafted?
A: Yeah, it was frustrating. Before I broke my leg, teams had told me I was a third- or fourth-round pick. Then I broke my leg and I was going to be a seventh-round or free agent guy. Then I had a really good pro day on April 1, and I was hearing anywhere from fourth to sixth round, so not getting drafted was frustrating, but I can’t do anything about that. I kind of just try to worry about the things that I can control. I’ve got an opportunity here and I’m going to try to make the most out of it.
Q: Obviously a ton of undrafted guys have gone on to have great careers. How does that affect your mentality entering your first year in the NFL?
A: I don’t really think it affects my mentality. If you look at it, actually, last year there were more rookie free agents that made teams than guys that got drafted, which is a pretty crazy stat but it actually happened last year. So I don’t think it affects my mentality in any way. I think it makes it a little tougher, a little more tough I guess in the short-term to make the team. If you’re drafted, you kind of have a little bit more wiggle room in the sense of say you have a bad preseason game or something like that. But yeah, everything I’ve had to do in my career has kind of been the hard way, between lacerating my liver, a coaching staff change, not getting recruited that heavily, all of those things. So, I wasn’t too surprised by it. It’s kind of just the way things go for me, which I’ve come to expect and I don’t mind. It is what is.
Q: You once threw 89 passes in a game. What was that like, growing up in a system like that?
A: You kind of take both sides with it. As a quarterback, you like chucking the ball around definitely. But it gets tough when the team knows that you’re that one-dimensional at times. I think we were better my senior year, but throwing 89 times in a game isn’t good, you know what I mean? Obviously something wrong’s going on if you threw the ball 89 times in a game, whether that be you can’t run the ball successfully or you’re down by so much that you have to keep throwing it. So, I loved it for the fact that I got to chuck the ball around, every quarterback loves that, but it made it tough with the size of the windows you were throwing into. There wasn’t really any room for error at some points. And being behind a lot in games, you’ve got to try to make something happen. I’ve never been a guy that is going to play to not make a mistake. I’m always going to play to try to get my team back into a game in any way possible, and sometimes that’s kind of pushing the limit of taking care of the ball well and whatnot.
Q: What kind of effect does that have on your arm? Did it become normal?
A: Yeah, a lot of people have asked me that. It’s kind of funny. Every team I’ve ever played on, it’s kind of been like that. When I was a little kid, we were throwing the ball 50, 60 times. When I played baseball, I was the only pitcher on the team. I had a game, I threw a complete game with 170 pitches and pitched two days after that. It’s just kind of what I’ve been used to. I’m used to my arm hurting and not feeling good. It’s just kind of what I’ve done my whole life, so you just kind of figure out how to deal with it.
Q: 170 pitches?
A: Yeah. It was crazy. It was an eight-inning game, usually you only play seven as a little kid. Well it was seventh or eighth grade. I don’t know if that’s a little kid or not. But yeah, it went into extra innings. I actually had a no-hitter going but I walked the bases loaded like five times, too. Yeah. We ended up winning the game, but it a lot of pitches. Like I was saying, that’s just what I was used to.
Q: A lot of fans around here probably haven’t seen you play because you were on the opposite coast, playing in the Pac-12. How would you describe your style of play?
A: I guess I’d describe it as I’m a guy that’ll do anything for the guys I’m playing with, and I’ll do whatever it takes to try to win a football game. Whether that’s playing a game with a lacerated liver, or being a positive leader, whatever it is. I’m willing to do it for the better of the group. I think that’s what a quarterback needs to do, and that’s what I’ve always tried to do.