A look at Andover junior Connor Clancy's football helmet shows the wear and tear of a brutal year on the gridiron. It's plastic shell severely scarred by deep gashes on the forehead, both from continuous contact with opponents, and the occasional heave to the turf out of frustration.
"I love getting into the game," said Clancy. "I hate when my teammates aren't into the game. I love getting people motivated. It's a great way to express emotions."
Known for his soft-spoken, courteous manner off the field, the Golden Warriors' starting center and National Honor Society member has become recognized on the field as much for his crushing blocks and spot-on snaps as he is for his extreme passion — from screaming at the top of his lungs in anger to literally jumping with joy — both in the game and on the sidelines.
"Everyone comments on it, especially the parents that know me as a quiet kid that respects adults," Clancy said with a laugh. "But (defensive coordinator) Derrick Beasley always tells us, 'It's time to turn on the switch.' That's what I do. I turn on the switch."
The two-year starter will help lead Andover onto the Veterans Memorial Stadium turf in Lawrence, as the Golden Warriors look to earn their fourth straight victory over Central Catholic on Thanksgiving Day.
Clancy quickly learned to flip that switch in youth football, even if it was to the concern of his mother.
"I started playing football in the sixth grade," he said. "My mom didn't want me to because she thought I'd get hurt. But I convinced her. The first day, they told me to go try out center, and I loved it right away."
He not only fell in love with center, he also found a knack for the position. And last season as a sophomore, at just a 15-years-old and 180 pounds, Clancy earned the job as the starting varsity center. Despite his youth and lack of size, he quickly won the respect of his older linemates.
"It was pretty scary as a sophomore," he said. "But as I went along it got a lot easier. People learned to listen to me. As an underclassman on the offensive line you always take a lot of crap, but most of the time I'm right, and they learned that."
After an offseason of weight training, Clancy is now an anchor on the offensive line at 6-foot, 225 pounds. But it is his brain — which has earned him acceptance into the National Honor Society — that has proven a key to the position often called the quarterback of the offensive line.
"I take a lot of pride in making all of the calls at the line," he said. "Stuff like telling people where to go and making sure everyone knows where they have to be. Offense is different from defense. You have to play under control. You play with emotion, but it is a controlled emotion."
Clancy also faces the challenging task of beginning every play by snapping the football to the quarterback, a job more difficult since Andover runs nearly every play out of the shotgun.
But, in approximately 459 snaps this season, Clancy has not send a single errant ball back to quarterback John Hennessy.
"Shotgun is hard," he said. "Especially when you have a defensive player head up on you looking down your throat. You have to snap the ball and get a hit on the player at the same time. That's not an easy thing. I had two or three bad snaps last year, but I'm working on none this season. Hennessy and I worked a lot in the offseason."
His approach has impressed Andover interim head coach John Rex, who Clancy recently gave a breakdown of every rushing play Central Catholic has run this season.
"He gives great effort at the physical part of the game and works hard at the mental part," said Rex. "I never have to worry about a snap with him, which is especially important when you're working out of the shotgun. He's a throwback."
In recent weeks, Clancy has seen time on defense, recording a tackle against Lowell. But it is his work as the motivator — always the first to rush out to check on an injured player, scold a quiet sideline or provide words of encouragement for a struggling teammate — that are still his signature.
"My friends always joke with me," said Clancy. "They say, 'You're so nice off the field, what happens to you when you're on the field?' I just love football."
From futbol to football
Football was not the sport of Clancy's youth. It was, instead, soccer. His father Paul was an All-Scholastic on the pitch in high school. But the younger Clancy eventually found his heart on the gridiron.
"He was crushed the day I told him, 'I don't want to play soccer anymore, I want to play football,'" said Connor. "But he loves seeing me play and I got him into the sport. He loves football now."
By the Numbers
Consecutive clean snaps Andover's Connor Clancy has executed this season, without a single bad snap.