TEMPE – Sun Devil Football head coach Kenny Dillingham announced that he will retain Joe Connolly as the program’s Head Coach of Football Sports Performance. Connolly has served that position for the last five seasons at ASU.
“There wasn’t even a question that Joe Connolly was the right man for this job,” Dillingham said. “His name was one I was familiar with long before I returned to Tempe and he was one of the first people I sat down with when I arrived. Joe is renowned in the strength and conditioning world for his attention to detail and the results of his work ethic on the student-athletes he trains. He is a consummate professional and we are privileged to be able to keep him in Tempe.”
Building and directing a talented staff under the nutrition, sports science, and sports performance sector, Connolly has elevated the standard of strength training at Arizona State. As ASU Football’s head coach of sports performance, Connolly has developed, customized, and instilled a proprietary training system unique to each individual. Connolly’s reign as Head Coach of Football Sports Performance has also included the implementation of new technology and equipment.
“I’m not sure anyone could have listened to Coach Dillingham’s opening remarks as the head coach for this program and not be excited to have the opportunity to work with him,” Connolly said. “I am truly honored and excited to take that passion and energy and carry it over into the weight room this offseason. Arizona State is special to me and I am excited to continue being a part of this university.”
Connolly was named a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach (MSCC) by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches association (CSCCa) earlier this season. The honor is the highest given in the strength and conditioning coaching profession, and the ceremony is the highlight of the association’s national conference each year.
“This is an incredible honor for Joe,” CSCCa Chief Executive Officer Scott Bennett said at the time. “Being named a Master Strength and Conditioning Coach signifies a commitment to the student-athlete, the Arizona State athletic program, and the strength and conditioning profession. We are honored to have Coach Connolly as a member of our association and to have him join the ranks of the Master Strength and Conditioning Coaches. He is truly a model of an outstanding strength and conditioning professional.”
In his five seasons with the Sun Devil football program, Connolly worked with several players that are now thriving at the next level, including standout NFL rookies this season Rachaad White and Jack Jones. His program played a big role in helping Sun Devil wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk become a 2020 first round draft, making it consecutive years that ASU had a receiver taken in the first round. Running back Eno Benjamin was also selected in that draft and is still on the active roster with the Arizona Cardinals.
The list of professionals he worked with during his time at ASU also includes 2019 NFL draft choices WR N’Keal Harry (first round) and Renell Wren (fourth round), who were beneficiaries of working with Connolly. Prior to the draft Wren was singled out as a player who had raised his draft profile at the NFL combine where the former Sun Devil defensive lineman had a breakout performance. Also working in Connolly’s program prior to professional careers were 2019 NFL rookie free agent signees OL Quinn Bailey, DB Jalen Harvey, OL Casey Tucker and QB Manny Wilkins.
The 2021 Sun Devil Football roster featured several future NFL players, including Rachaad White, Jones, Chase Lucas, Darien Butler and D.J. Davidson who all transformed their bodies after arriving in Tempe, making them candidates to be drafted or signed as free agents.
Connolly joined ASU from UMass, where worked primarily with the football team. In his first year with the program, Connolly helped develop Elijah Wilkinson – a 6-6, 329-pound offensive lineman who signed with the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent and concluded the 2018 season as a starter on the Denver offensive line.
Connolly also oversaw the strength and conditioning development of tight end Adam Breneman. In 2017 Breneman was named to the USA TODAY College Football All-American Team as one of the two best tight ends in the country. He finished the 2017 campaign as the top-ranked tight end in the nation for receptions per game (5.8) and second for most receiving yards per game (69.5). Breneman became just the third Minuteman selected to a major, national All-America team.
A native of Barnstable, Mass., Connolly arrived in Amherst after seven seasons working with the football program at the University of South Carolina with Hall of Fame coach Steve Spurrier. During his time with the Gamecocks, he coached 45 NFL Draft picks, including the 2014 No. 1 selection Jadeveon Clowney. The Gamecocks went on to six straight bowl games, winning the SEC East in 2010, and went 5-2 against in-state rival Clemson during Connolly’s tenure. South Carolina was also one of three Power 5 teams that won 11 games for three consecutive years.
Prior to his arrival in Columbia, S.C., Connolly served as an assistant strength and conditioning coach at the University of Louisville. He worked with the Cardinal football program, primarily focusing on the skill position players. Connolly began his professional career at Harvard in 2007, assisting with all 41 sports, including the league’s championship football team. He was hired as a full-time assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Crimson in 2008 and served as the head strength and conditioning coach for men’s volleyball while continuing to assist with the other programs.
Connolly holds a Master of Science in physical education with a concentration in strength and conditioning from Bridgewater State, graduating magna cum laude in 2007. He is a 2004 graduate of the University of Hartford, where he earned degrees in criminal justice and sociology. He was a four-year letterwinner in baseball and was given the Senior Award for great sportsmanship and perseverance. Connolly is Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified (SCCC) by the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches’ Association (CSCCA) and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA).
Connolly is a current competitor in Olympic weightlifting, drug-free powerlifting, Highland games and strongman competitions. He is joined in Tempe by his wife Shalona and daughter Cali, who was born in August of 2021.
Bowl Game Experience:
2009 Papa John’s Bowl
2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl
2011 Capital One Bowl
2012 Outback Bowl
2013 Capital One Bowl
2014 Independence Bowl
2018 Las Vegas Bowl
2019 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl
2021 Las Vegas Bowl