As a senior football player in college, there is nothing more exciting than being a part of a successful team. Payton Conrad, a senior safety for the Minnesota State Mavericks, is experiencing just that, as the Mavericks are headed to the first round of the NCAA Division II Football Championship Saturday.
“I’m confident with the seniority we have on the team. I think that will help us a lot,” said Conrad. “While we don’t have a lot of people that have been in the playoffs before, we have a lot of older guys who have enough maturity to take every snap, play by play.”
Conrad grew up in Tea, S.D., where he attended Tea High School. He was a multi-sport athlete, playing both basketball and football during his high school career.
After graduating in 2017, Conrad began his college football journey at St. Cloud State. In his second season, Conrad helped the Huskies finish as one of the top defenses in the nation, recording a total of 25 tackles, with two tackles for loss, along with three interceptions in his injury shortened season.
“College football is a lot more detail oriented and just the amount of time you have to put in to be successful,” said Conrad. “You kind of just rely on your athleticism when you’re in high school, whereas you’ve got to be much more cerebral in college.”
Due to the elimination of St. Cloud’s football program, Conrad made his way over to MSU in 2020. In the 2021 season, he recorded 32 tackles, forced two fumbles and was named to the NSIC All-Academic Team.
Conrad is making quite a statement in his final season, tallying a total of 57 tackles thus far. As a senior, it’s clear that he has had a change in mindset.
“You definitely have to take on more of a leadership role as a senior,” said Conrad. “Whether they’re new to the program or just got here, they look for someone that’s been here before and done that.”
To Conrad, football isn’t just a sport. It has shaped his life in many ways, even outside of football.
“Being here, nothing was ever really given to me. I didn’t come here and get to be a starter right away,” said Conrad. “I kind of learned that if you want to be successful, you’ve got to work really hard, be super disciplined and detail oriented.”
Academically, Conrad has worked really hard. He will be a double major in management and marketing, with a certificate in business analytics come December. He plans to work in the Twin Cities after graduation.
Outside of life at MSU, Conrad buys and sells sneakers. For those who wish to check out some kicks, his Instagram page is @pkickss_ .
As the Mavericks head into the first round of the NCAA Championship, it’s a bitter-sweet ending for Conrad, as this tournament may be his last moments as a competitive football player.
Header Photo: Defensive back, Payton Conrad (above) practices for the Saturday, Nov. 19 game against Wayne State in the NCAA Division II Playoffs. (Dominic Bothe/The Reporter)
Write to Ali Reed at Alicia.Reed@mnsu.edu