You ever look back and think “wow my mom is a legend.” Maybe you do, maybe you don’t – but regardless you probably should. I know I do. Normally we don’t like to bring any attention to ourselves mainly because Press Sports is a lot bigger than me or my partner Drew Williams, but this is a unique opportunity to kick off our new Press Sports Films Series and give you guys a gist of what we’re going to be doing because we can’t wait to push out stories highlighting the adversity and grind that has gone into making so many athletes in the Press Sports community some of the biggest ballers around the country. I’ll tell you right away that everything I went through as a kid, during the college recruiting process and as a college athlete, has contributed in a major way to the person I am today. My name is Conrad Cornell, and this is my story.
When I was 4 years old, I moved back to the United States from England with my mom (Kim), older brother (Christian) and younger sister (Georgia). My mom had tried to make my parents’ marriage work by moving to England (where my Dad is from) but it just wasn’t going to work out so my mom moved us back home where she could raise us with the help and support of her family. As a result, Christian, Georgia and I all grew up without a Dad around the house and for the longest time I never thought twice about it.
At the age of seven I was diagnosed with a rare cancer related blood disease by the name of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis that was treated with Chemotherapy. I remember overhearing the doctor say out loud to my mom that “he has a 35% chance of d-y-i-n-g” and immediately bursting into tears. Side note: doc, common man I may not have been the sharpest tool in the shed, but I wasn’t that dumb… Following that day, I proceeded to sleep in my mom’s bed every night for about a year, terrified that this cancer was going put me down early. It wasn’t until I checked into Camp Sunshine for a week that with the help of a counselor named Jasper, I was able to flip my mindset.
He helped me to understand at a very young age that life is too short to live scared of bad things that might happen. You have to live your life confident that the good things you hope can happen, will happen if you have faith and work hard. I remember skipping up to my mom when she came to pick me up from camp knowing that everything was going to be ok. But then life kicks you in the face again, how are you going to respond?
A couple months after I was fully cured of cancer and put into remission, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. I’ll never forget her sitting my brother and I down on this extremely lightweight but pretty comfortable big blue chair we had in the room that we shared and telling us with tears rolling down her eyes that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer but not to worry because everything was going to be ok. For about a year it seemed like a different family would bring us a home cooked meal each night knowing what my mom was going through as a single mom.
Having cancer is not cheap and it caused some major financially struggles for our family. About a year after my mom had been cured, my grandmother was diagnosed with kidney cancer, so we packed up from our childhood home that we rented in Atlanta and moved an hour outside the city to live with and take care of my Grandma.
This all happened when I was going into sixth grade and I had just joined my brother in school at Westminster in Atlanta. My great grandmother in England passed away and had set up a trust fund to pay for my brother, sister and I to go to private schools which now meant my mom was driving Christian and I an hour to and from school each day. This changed after a few years when Christian eventually took over driving duties and a couple years later, I got a license to help out driving as well. We commuted an hour to and from school most every day for seven years but a lot of days we would stay with friends in town.
My mom always had us playing three or four sports a year pretty much living in the car driving us around to practice, games etc. I was always an above average athlete but never notably outstanding. Early in high school I remember sitting down with our newly appointed varsity baseball coach and telling him I was going to play division one college baseball. At that time, I had just finished my freshman JV season where I was in and out of the lineup playing right field and hitting in the nine-hole.
I grinded hard that summer playing travel ball with 643 and training my body with the intention of coming back to school with the same physical makeup of the varsity guys. My sophomore football season went by quick and once it was over, I got to work preparing for baseball. That season I made the varsity and ended up being our number two pitcher and started at 2B in the games I didn’t pitch. I hoped the momentum from that season would carry into the summer and land me a college offer, but I entered junior year without an offer hungry to get the first one under my belt.
Junior year we had a really good team, I ended up being the number one pitcher and helped lead us through playoffs to the state championship series where we lost in game three to our rival high school that Drew played for. That summer I was on the 17u 643 Cougars with Danny Pralgo and somehow managed to not get an offer again. I guess I just wasn’t having the right game at the right time in front of the right coach. I ended up graduated high school with 0 college offers. Looking back, it was clear one of the big reasons I almost completely slipped through the cracks of recruiting was because I didn’t ever have any footage for coaches to watch.
Something that I think about a lot was wearing a Yasiel Puig jersey to college t-shirt day my senior year. Everyone else was in the big state school shirts and I was a combination of jealous, furious and extremely determined. Following losing in the semi-finals senior year I was enrolled at Ole Miss in case no offers came through the door, but I wasn’t ready to give up.
I knew I was good enough to play D1 and had faith that if I kept working hard an opportunity would present itself. Sure enough, I got invited to play for Team Georgia in The Heartland Classic in Norman Oklahoma and balled out. On the bus ride home, I got a call from Coach Strickland at Georgia with a walk-on spot and Coach Gibson at Mercer with a nice scholarship offer. I ended up committing to Mercer a month before school started my freshman year.
College baseball was one of the most one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever been through in my life. I’m extremely thankful for the discipline of learning to manage 40+ hours a week of baseball on top of school and trying to have a social life. But that is for sure not what was the most challenging thing for me. Going from being the dude on your varsity team to being the 10th man…. for four years… was a major adjustment.
I loved my teammates and did everything I was capable of at the time to be as good of a teammate as possible, but it was just tough. I was pouring everything I had into being the best player I could be, and it just felt like I was kicked in the face by it every day. I’m extremely thankful for that now though. More so than a lot of other sports, baseball really teaches people how to handle failure and make adjustments.
My senior year I called Drew and we were reflecting on our athletic careers; we had grown up playing little league football and baseball together and then travel ball and finally against each other for rival high schools and we were talking about how cool it would be to have all our top athletic achievements together on one profile. Kind of similar to how our Instagram pages have photos of all our most memorable social memories that our kids are probably going to look back on one day.
We decided we were going to try and make this app and started grinding on it November (2017) of our senior year in college. During my senior baseball season, we were waking up at 5AM every day to meet with our developers on the other side of the world and we launched the first version of Press Sports the day after my college baseball career ended.
Since that day it has been nonstop hustle trying to make the best possible platform for you guys to use as both an athletic memory bank and recruiting tool if applicable. Press Sports has led me to what is easily the happiest period of my life so far. We made this platform because we genuinely wished it was around for us and we are here for you guys however we can help.
I could not be more thankful for all the adversity that has been thrown at me so far in life as well as my mom, siblings and friends who have been there for me through it all I know there is more adversity to come but Drew and I are prepared to handle anything and are not going to stop grinding for you guys.