A comic book and sci-fi fanatic since the age of 10, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Chris Conley seems to possess superpowers of his own. With a 4.35 40-yard time and a higher vertical jump than many of the guys who have won the NBA’s dunk contest, you might think he is a real-life Captain America. However, his true hidden power might be the ability to excel at pretty much anything he puts his mind to. Chris did not even play sports until high school, when he tried out for the football team because some of his friends were on the team. That led to a standout college career at the University of Georgia and eventually, a chance to pursue his dreams as a pro in the NFL.
But while studying journalism and visual storytelling at Georgia, he also wrote, directed, and starred in his own student film, Star Wars: Retribution, which currently has more than half a million YouTube views and counting. While gearing up for the 2018 NFL season, Chris has also become consumed by a new passion: his 2018 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport. Combining the explosiveness of his playing style with the visual appeal of one of his favorite sci-fi movies, TRON: Legacy, the Grand Sport was the perfect canvas that Chris utilized to make his sci-fi-inspired vision come to life. Admittedly, he is relatively new to the automotive enthusiast scene, but with his knack for learning things at virtual light-speed, Chris may be building his own race car in no time. We caught up with Chris to talk about how he was able to merge all the great obsessions in his life into a rolling masterpiece.
When did you first want to become a pro football player? What players did you look up to as a kid?
I started playing football in high school. I really didn’t play sports up until then. I had friends who were playing and I wanted to be involved. I started a lot later than most people. I’d watch videos of Jerry( Rice) of course. And then Julio (Jones), A.J. Green, and Larry Fitzgerald.
Did you know from the start that you were a natural at football?
It was a bit of a surprise for me. But it also came with a lot of work. The wins and losses were all lessons I learned from. I was a sophomore in high school when I started getting college offers.
What was the moment when you realized that you could actually make it to the NFL?
I didn’t really know it until I was a junior in college at (the University of) Georgia. Up until then, football was just a means to an end so I could go to college.
What did you think you were going to get into after college, before you made the NFL your Plan A?
I wasn’t really sure. I was in the journalism program because I knew I was decent in front of the camera talking about news and talking about sports. Early in college, I knew I wanted to tell stories and write narratively, so I started doing that and making short films.
On that note, how did you first get interested in sci-fi and superhero stories?
When I was a kid, my dad had this box of hundreds of comic books from his childhood. It all started really young for me, way before football. I was like 10 or 11. I got attached to these stories of heroes and how they would rise up out of nowhere. My brother and I would start making our own comic book stories.
Who are your favorite comic book characters?
I’ve always been a big fan of Superman. Just this idea of a guy with all those powers who also has these realistic insecurities and sensibilities. And Black Panther. He has all this technology and this wealth and appears out of nowhere from this secret country.
How’d you become a Star Wars fan?
I watched the prequel movies with my dad when I was a kid. Then it branched out to the books. I’ve never really let go of it and it continues to this day.
What made you want to get a Corvette and in particular, the Grand Sport?
I love the widebody of the Grand Sport, the power, and how loud it is. But instead of going with the Z06 that comes with a supercharger on it (from the factory), I read about people getting the Grand Sport and supercharging it and doing the modifications themselves. I liked the idea of the car being a project that I could work on over the course of a couple years.
Can you tell me how your Corvette Grand Sport fits your style?
I wanted to do something different. I had seen some TRON-inspired cars before, but some of them looked a little too complicated and weren’t quite right. So, I just sketched out an idea of what I wanted the lines to look like and how they’d complement the contours of the car.
How do people react to seeing your Vette on the road?
A lot of people pull over and take pictures. Some start driving out of their lanes and almost hit me. It definitely gets a lot of looks.
What are your favorite things about your Grand Sport?
I love being able to pop the top on but I didn’t want a convertible because I hate soft tops. It’s like an extension of my mind and of an idea that I hatched and sketched out myself. The guys over at Driving Impressions did a great job of making it a reality.
What future mods do you have for your Vette?
For this first year, I just want to enjoy the wrap and how it drives stock. But down the line, I want to supercharge it and get headers. After that, I may throw some drag radials on it and take it to the track.
What are your goals for this season, and beyond?
The goal is always to try to get to the Super Bowl. I’m really looking forward to the season. I’m coming off an injury and can’t wait to get back on the field. Off the field, I want to continue writing and learning about visual storytelling. So, one day, when I’m done with football, I can transition to that.
Chris Conley | _flight_ | Driving Impressions / Josh Cahow | /drivingimpressions | @drivingimpressions