Like all younger brothers, Connor Mansfield followed his older brother Myles around like a puppy during their childhood in Greensboro.
He copied Myles’ every move. So when he saw his older brother playing soccer with his good friend and neighbor Jonathan Campbell, now a junior defenseman on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Connor followed suit and began playing with the older boys whenever he could.
Now, the brothers are teammates for Elon University, where Connor is a freshman midfielder, and Myles is a junior midfielder.
“At an early age, you want to do what your brother is doing and be better than him at it, and I was no different,” Connor Mansfield said. “He used to practice all the time and was really good right away from an early age in his rec days, so I practiced with him constantly so that I could improve. It was competitive from the beginning.”
He soon fell in love with the game, just as his older brother had and began playing on local rec teams and in pickup games with Myles, Campbell and other soccer-crazed kids his age.
The two didn’t play together until Myles’ sophomore year at Greensboro Day School, a soccer powerhouse in North Carolina. Connor, then in eighth grade, was called up to be on the varsity squad.
The brothers would play together for the next two years, although they would be on the field at the same time for only one of those after Connor suffered a serious leg injury his sophomore year that sidelined him for the entire year.
The Mansfield brothers left their mark. Together, they led Greensboro Day to back-to-back NCISAA state championships in 2009 and 2010, and Myles was named a two-time NCISAA All-Region honoree and an all-conference and all-state selection as a senior.
He moved on to Elon, where he has appeared in 41 games as a member of the Phoenix with 16 starts, including five in seven games this season. He has one goal to his credit, Elon’s first goal in a 2-1 victory over Rutgers University in 2013. Connor, meanwhile, had an illustrious high school and club career despite his many injuries. He was named to the Fusion U-16 academy team in 2010 and 2011 and played for the Fusion U-18 team in 2012 and 2013. As a member of Fusion, he played for current Elon head coach Chris Little.
Despite his promising early career, schools such as the University of South Carolina and North Carolina pulled out of Connor’s recruitment because of his history of frequent injury. It was then that the coaching staff at Elon approached Myles to ask him to gauge his younger brother’s interest in following him to Elon.
“As soon as he started getting injured, a lot of schools peeled away,” Myles Mansfield said. “But Elon stayed and continued to show interest, but they weren’t sure how interested he was in them. So one night at dinner, they came over and asked me if Connor was considering Elon. And I was like, ‘He better be,’ and they kept after him, and the rest is history.”
Before the Elon coaching staff was ready to fully recognize Connor as one of its recruiting targets, they needed to make sure he was willing to play with and, at least in his first few years in the Phoenix program, live in the shadow of, his older brother.
The answer the staff received from him, though, left little doubt that the younger Mansfield welcomed the challenge.
“We were very transparent with him,” Little said. “We wanted to take the pressure off him by telling him that we only wanted him to come if he was 100-percent comfortable with his brother being here and playing on the same field as him, but it didn’t seem to be a problem for him.”
Myles, though, was hesitant to get too involved in Connor’s recruitment. It was Connor’s decision to make he said, and he didn’t want to put any undue pressure on his little brother.
“I tried not to involve myself at all,” Myles Mansfield said. “I tried not to read into anything he did and just wanted to let the process work itself out and for him to make the best decision for him. It was fun to watch him go through the same process I had gone through two years earlier.”
Ever since Connor decided to walk in his brother’s footsteps and continue his career in the maroon and gold, Myles has made a point of pushing his brother in the right direction whenever he can, although his advice often falls on deaf ears.
“It usually goes in one ear and out the other,” Myles Mansfield said. “But I try and give him little pointers whenever I can about what I did wrong when I was his age, so that he doesn’t make the same mistakes. But at the end of the day, I think you have to make your own bad decisions so you can learn from them.”
The two don’t spend a lot of time with each other off the pitch, but it doesn’t bother either of them. Except for a few meetings every so often, practices and games, they are different people with separate lives and social groups.
“We’ll hang out every now and then, but he has his group of friends that he usually spends his off-time with — I usually hang out with the freshmen,” Connor Mansfield said. “Other than at practices and games, he does his thing, and I do mine. And our paths don’t cross that much.”
Little is confident that Connor will be able to emerge from his brother’s shadow and make his own mark on the program. If he had any reservations about it, he said, he wouldn’t have recruited him.
“Once he’s fully healthy and is able to play, he’s definitely going to write his own chapter here at Elon,” Little said. “It’s difficult for him to not get compared to his brother since Myles has had such a fantastic career and is a real success story, but he’ll make his own way.”