Kiski Area’s Flemm overcomes injuries, mother’s bout with cancer to become stalwart for football team

By:
Saturday, October 1, 2022 | 3:57 PM


Connor Flemm rarely leaves the field for the Kiski Area football team.

The starter at running back and linebacker also kicks off, punts, converts extra points and is the field goal kicker.

For the Cavaliers senior, every day on the field with his teammates is one he savors. He knows better than anyone how those opportunities can be quickly taken away.

Injuries forced the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Flemm, who also plays basketball and baseball, to miss every season from football his sophomore year to basketball last year as a junior.

“It’s been a lot, but now I am just grateful for a chance to play, every practice and every game,” Flemm said. “Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Now, I always cherish those moments.”

Flemm started one varsity game at linebacker as a freshman and also played on special teams.

He came back for his sophomore year hoping to make an impact. But things quickly came to a halt.

Flemm was running the ball in a junior varsity game against Fox Chapel early in the season, and as he was being tackled, he went to brace himself. His left elbow buckled as it broke and dislocated under the strain.

It was a season-ending injury, and the rehab and recovery process also forced him to miss the entire basketball season.

Compounding the physical and emotional toll of the elbow injury was discovering, at about the same time, that his mother, Kelly, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. With surgery to remove the tumor, Flemm said, it was discovered to be cancerous.

“She had treatment, and, thankfully, there’s been no trace of it since. She’s good,” Flemm said. “With what I was going through with my surgery and not knowing at the time what the future was for her, it was a lot.

“She is so involved with all of my sports, from cheering me on to working with the boosters. She has been such a constant source of support the past couple of years. I am grateful every day to have that.”

With his elbow injury healed, Flemm was cleared to return to competition in February, and he prepared for his sophomore baseball season. But during one of the first games, he slid into home and broke the tibia and fibula near the ankle in his left leg.

Surgery was needed to stabilize the bones, and a new recovery regimen began.

“I miss all of the baseball season, and I think I am going to be back in August for football after recovering,” Flemm said. “But I was then told the leg never healed, so I missed all of football last year and all of basketball. It was devastating.”

Even though he was not on the court last winter, his basketball teammates voted Flemm a team captain.

“Multiple times I thought, ‘Why me?’ ” he said. “With my first injury and then my mom’s brain tumor, things were just piling on. It was during covid, so I wasn’t seeing many people. I was at home thinking and kind of feeling bad for myself. Then all of that happened with my broken leg when I thought I was back for baseball and the extra seasons I missed last year.”

But Flemm said what pushed him through was the support from family, friends, teammates and coaches and also the ability to contribute in a meaningful way, even if it wasn’t on the field or court himself.

“I spent a year to a year and a half just watching from the sidelines and doing what I could to help coach up my teammates,” he said. “I wanted to remain involved as much as I could. Knowing the games, I hoped to make a difference by showing someone a new technique or a new way of doing something or helping correct something they might have been doing wrong.”

Flemm pushed through with his second recovery, and the catcher was back on the field for baseball. But even then, he wasn’t able to fully escape the injury bug.

“I didn’t catch much because I hurt my (right) shoulder and couldn’t throw the way I needed to, so I ended up playing right field a lot of the time,” Flemm said. “Towards the end of the season, I got back to catching and felt comfortable there.”

Flemm said he faced a lot of bad luck at the plate during the season. He had one of the lowest strikeout rates on the team but couldn’t buy a hit.

“I had a good contact rate, and I was hitting .150,” he said. “I was hitting a lot balls right at people. I couldn’t catch a break. It was frustrating.”

Flemm now is a big part of the Cavalier’s gameplan as the team continues to push forward despite an 0-6 overall mark.

Through six weeks, Flemm has made 29 solo tackles. He had a team-best nine on Friday against Indiana.

On offense, he owns 119 rush yards, and his 1-yard run to open the Kiski Area scoring against North Catholic two weeks ago was the first of his career.

“We’re so glad he’s back,” Kiski coach Sam Albert said. “I told him the other day that with all he does on the field, unless he wants to call the plays, there’s not much else he can do. That’s a tribute to his hard work and determination. He’s such a great leader and great captain for us. He gives everything he has on every play.”

Flemm also is a perfect 10 for 10 on extra points.

“We have to pull the kid off the field,” said Cavaliers assistant football coach and former Kiski head baseball coach Aaron Albert.

“He wants to do more stuff. He was also on kickoff return, but we got him off that two weeks ago just to give him a break somewhere. Playing linebacker in and of itself is taxing physically. You’re colliding with someone every play. And then he runs the ball with power, too. But he always is prepared for those physical battles and plays the game with endurance.

“Connor’s positive every day, no matter what happens. He doesn’t let much bother him. He just goes to work. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring, and I think he embraces that thinking to where he wants to make the most of the day at hand.”

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

Tags:

More Football

In storied Aliquippa football history, could these Quips show they’re best with another PIAA title?
PIAA Class A semifinal preview: Union vs. Port Allegany
PIAA Class 2A semifinal preview: Steel Valley vs. Westinghouse
Time to play The Birdie’s favorite game show: Leopardy!
This week on Trib HSSN for week of Nov. 28, 2022