During the last football game of the season, freshman KJ Maloney scored a 67-yard touchdown. Shutting out Lake Erie College 54 – 0, the Chargers won, but Maloney didn’t get to savor his accomplishments for long.
“The day after football ended my track coach texted me, ‘All right, now the real work begins,’” Maloney said.
Maloney was one of three freshman football players to see the field this year, but the only one to begin another varsity sport as soon as the season closed.
He’s been playing three to four sports for “basically my whole life,” he said, but at Hillsdale, he’s sticking to two. On the football team, he’s a wide receiver, and on the track team he crushes the 4x400 meter relay.
“I love competing,” Maloney said. “So in track it’s kind of you versus everybody else — you don’t really have to depend on other people, unless you’re in relay, of course. But in football, I love how much you rely on other people and work together as a team.”
At 6 foot 4 inches, Maloney towers over defenders in Randy Moss fashion, using speed to his advantage on the football field and the track.
Assistant football coach Brad Otterbein calls Maloney “a matchup dream” for the Chargers.
“Konnor is tall and fast, so he scares people that he is going to go deep,” Otterbein said. “This will cause opposing defenses to put two defenders on him or let us throw the ball to him one-on-one.”
Otterbein says Maloney, who is enthusiastic and eager to learn, ran about 15 – 20 plays per game. Among them was his first touchdown, against Walsh in October. The Chargers won 38 – 0.
“When I scored the touchdown, it wasn’t the prettiest,” Maloney said. “It was kind of a sliding catch into the endzone. So a bunch of guys, when they came upfield, they kind of mobbed me and they’re congratulating me and stuff but then I got a bunch of crap like, ‘Oh you slide in, it doesn’t count,’ ‘Oh, you were down at the one-yard line,’ this and that. Just having fun.”
Freshman Jack Murphy, Maloney’s roommate, said he and his buddies have been supportive from the sidelines.
“Coming in as freshmen, all of KJ’s other friends and I got redshirted. So we didn’t play, but we were on the sidelines during the games. And KJ was the only one of us who played, so we were all always just cheering for him on the sidelines,” Murphy said. “I remember when he got his first touchdown, he came over to all of us first and we all congratulated him. It was really special.”
Maloney finished last semester running indoor track and off-season football workouts, and the spring semester means both sports again: 5:15 a.m. football training and outdoor track competitions.
Head track coach Andrew Towne says he’s enjoyed working with Maloney.
“KJ is a hard worker,” Towne said. “He wants to be the best.”
Maloney’s competitive streak doesn’t stop at the end zone. He says he chose Hillsdale to attend college somewhere he would learn, even if he couldn’t compete athletically.
“My parents kept telling me this because they both played college sports. If I ever got injured, I wanted to be at a school where I could still go for academics,” he said. “Obviously this was the no-brainer.”
Maloney enjoys chemistry labs and plans to major in exercise science. In his little free time, he’s coached an IM basketball team made up of his football teammates. He also had a March Madness bracket — until it croaked.
“I shredded it,” he said. “It didn’t go well at all. I’m from Lansing so I’m a big MSU fan, so I had them going pretty far. The Spartans disappointed me. It wasn’t what I was looking for.”
As a three-season athlete, Maloney spends much of his time training for football and indoor as well as outdoor track, but that doesn’t keep him from trying new classes, listening to country music, and playing Fortnite with friends.
Off the field, Murphy says Maloney is just fun to be around.
“There are not many negatives you could find about KJ. He’s really good at football, track, obviously he gets good grades,” Murphy said. “But he’s pretty terrible at Fortnite.”