MULLINS, S.C. – Connor Gasque enjoys the moment.
A peaceful moment.
OK, about 30 peaceful moments.
The Pee Dee Academy receiver spends that time every day on the family porch, closing his eyes and clearing his head.
“I just sit normally in a chair and close my eyes and take deep breaths in silence,” said Gasque, a junior. “I go into my own world and breathe at the pace I want to.”
It’s akin to what Clemson's football team does each Thursday, meditating as a team. But without the Headspace app.
“I had never heard of that until I saw they do it at Clemson,” Gasque said. “But I also have to say it obviously works because of how good they are. When I first mediated, I felt very relaxed and more calm and more focused after I did it. It helps me focus even more on catching the ball.”
Even before discovering mediation, Gasque was the team’s leading receiver. Going into Saturday’s SCISA Class A state championship game against Thomas Heyward, he has made 59 catches for 899 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Before kickoff, however, it’s the calm before the storm.
“I’m a very peaceful person before the game, not very hyped up,” Gasque said. “You won’t find me screaming and yelling before games.”
His freshman year, Gasque was actually a running back on the junior varsity team. That was, before he was quickly promoted to varsity.
There was a freshman quarterback named Jake Lane (2,731 passing yards, 32 touchdowns this season), who needed as many receivers as possible to throw to.
It took Gasque time, however, to go from taking handoffs to catching passes.
“My problem was running before I caught the ball,” Gasque said.
But while Gasque worked on his routes, he improved his concentration to catch passes.
“I’d just focus on the thread in the middle of the ball,” he said.
Before long, Lane and Gasque became quite the aerial threat.
“We actually have really good chemistry,” Gasque said. “We stay after practice and work on routes. He knows where I’m going to be. If he knows what route I’m running, he can throw the ball and know I’ll be there. We work on that every day.”
Once Gasque improved on the technical aspect, he discovered how to out-think defenders.
“I normally make them think I’m going to run a vertical when I’m not going to run a vertical, or make them think I’m going to run a shallow route,” Gasque said. “That’s the best part about it, making them think you’re doing something else. They have no idea what you’re doing. You’ve got to make them think you’re doing something else.”
But Gasque’s effectiveness as a receiver extends to when he’s not even Lane’s target.
Because of opponents’ concentrated efforts to stop Gasque, that presents opportunities for teammates: Caleb Oakley has 700 receiving yards and five touchdowns, followed by Jason Norton (491, four) and Reese Webster (465, five) and Ryan Brewer (368, five).
“I draw safeties to me, and that opens up other wide receivers to catch the ball,” Gasque said.
Gasque will have another chance Saturday to have a big game.
But before the team bus rolls to Columbia for the state championship game, Gasque said, he’ll once again mediate at his house for 30 minutes.
Gasque has learned by now that the rest will take care of itself.