Football a family affair for Connor Mayes

Mayes’ brother Alex is also a lineman for Minnesota.

Mike Hendrickson

For sophomore right guard Connor Mayes, coming to Minnesota was all about brotherly love.
 
After his older brother Alex Mayes committed to play for the Gophers in 2012, Connor Mayes said he knew where he was headed for school.
 
“The big reason I came here was because I wanted to play football with my brother,” Connor Mayes said. “That’s always been our dream since we were little: to play college football together.”
 
Football and family go hand in hand for the Mayes, who boast three generations of college football players.
 
Connor Mayes’ father and grandfather both played college football, and Mayes has now come into his own as the Gophers starting right guard.
 
While Connor and Alex Mayes haven’t played alongside each other this year, they grew up blocking together.
 
The two were both varsity starters all four years of high school in Van Alstyne, Texas, and got to play on the same offensive line together for three years.
 
“It was something pretty special and something that probably won’t be done around here for a while,” Van Alstyne high school football head coach Mikeal Miller said. “To have two Division I players, for both of them to be lineman and brothers, they definitely left a legacy in this whole area.”
 
Miller said other schools came to recruit Connor Mayes after Alex had committed to Minnesota, but he had already made up his mind to continue playing with his brother. 
 
Even though Miller said he knew Connor Mayes dreamed of playing college football with his brother, he said he thought his dream might have changed when Alex Mayes went all the way from Texas to Minnesota.
 
“Connor had always wanted to go play with Alex,” Miller said. “[He] really never wavered in his commitment to play with his brother. I think it says a lot about him.”
 
The brothers’ father, Allen Mayes, said nothing is more encouraging as a parent than seeing the relationship his two sons have.
 
“We’re proud that they have that strong bond as brothers,” Allen Mayes said. “We taught them that sticking to family is important, and sticking together is important just like sticking together with your teammates. [We’re] very proud they have that strong relationship to do that.”
 
The TCU connection
 
Van Alstyne is about 90 miles away from Amon G. Carter Stadium, where the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs play their football games.
 
Alex and Connor Mayes were big TCU fans growing up, as both their father and their grandfather, Gene Mayes, played football there. The family also had season tickets to football and basketball games.
 
While TCU is currently ranked No. 4, the team wasn’t nearly as successful when the two were growing up, which Allen Mayes said he believes taught his sons an important lesson.
 
“We kind of taught the boys that it wasn’t about the wins and losses. It was about the heart of the university, about what was important at the school,” Allen Mayes said.
 
“When it came time to look at their recruiting, we all talked about what’s a good university and what makes up the right fit.”
 
Connor Mayes’ right fit turned out to be Minnesota, but his first collegiate start came against the Horned Frogs in September.
 
“I was really excited to play against TCU,” Connor said. “Just to be that kid from Texas, having the offer and coming to Minnesota and getting to put the pads on and line up was a really big deal. I thought it was awesome.”
 
Even though Allen and Gene Mayes played football at TCU, there was no question as to whom Allen Mayes was rooting for that game.
 
“There was no purple being worn in our family, I’ll just say that,” Allen Mayes said. “It was all about Alex and Connor and the Gophers beating TCU.”
 
Injury free
 
This season hasn’t been easy for the Gophers offensive line. A total of eight different players have made starts on the line due to injuries that have hit the team. 
Connor Mayes is the only player who has made every start on the offensive line in the same position.
 
“I think he’s very fortunate — knock on wood — to miss that injury bug a little bit, but I know he’s worked hard just like every one of those other linemen have, and it’s fun to watch him week to week get better,” Allen Mayes said. “I think he is getting better as he goes along.”
 
But as Connor Mayes has stayed injury free, the same can’t be said for Alex Mayes, who has yet to play in a game this season.
 
Alex Mayes has dealt with a shoulder and foot injury throughout his career, but having a brother on the team has helped him.
 
“With Alex’s injury problems, Connor’s been a great source of support for [him],” Allen Mayes said. “At the same time, Alex knows how his brother plays and knows what
Connor needs as far as encouragement, support and wisdom. Before every game, Alex tells me he’s going to take care of his brother. Those are proud moments as a dad.”
 
Connor Mayes said his brother helped show him the ropes when he first got on campus, which helped ease his nerves.
 
“He said ‘It’s just like high school football. Just do it, and use your technique,’ ” Connor Mayes said.
 
Alex Mayes has been granted a sixth year of eligibility due to his injuries, which means after this season, he can still play for the Gophers for three more years.
 
That means the Mayes brothers can keep playing together in college for at least two more years. 
 
“We’re excited about it for them,” Allen Mayes said. “We think coach Kill and the University was a perfect fit for those guys. It’s been a fun ride.”