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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2008

Konop not troubled by this double vision

BY JC REINDL
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ben Konop also was a college athlete, but he played basketball for Emory University. Ben Konop also was a college athlete, but he played basketball for Emory University.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY Enlarge | Buy This Photo

A former Ottawa Hills athlete found himself this week compared by Sports Illustrated to recent Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford.

However, it had nothing to do with achievement or legacy on the field. (Mr. Bradford plays football, and this 1990s scholar-athlete did his thing on the basketball court.)

What carried significance in the magazine's online Athlete Look-alikes feature appears to be their similar olive complexions, toothy smiles, and distinct dark-brown mops of curls.

"You should try to talk to Sam Bradford and see what he thinks about being compared to me," joked Lucas County Commissioner Ben Konop, whose pho-tograph and title is currently juxtaposed with Mr. Bradford's on SI.com and SIKids.com, the Web site for Sports Illustrated for Kids magazine.

The 32-year-old county commissioner captained the boys basketball team for Ottawa Hills High School in 1993-1994, and went on to play two seasons of NCAA Division III ball for Emory University in Atlanta.

He once scored 27 points in a single high school game (and sunk seven three-pointers in another game), yet remains humble about past accomplishments.

"I played about 100 levels lower than Sam Bradford," Mr. Konop conceded.

Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is the Sooners' quarterback. Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is the Sooners' quarterback.
JULIE JACOBSON / AP Enlarge

The Look-alikes feature was highlighted yesterday on the SI.com site, and had a total of 10 comparisons between professional or college athletes and public figures.

The list included actors Brad Pitt, Omar Epps, and Robert Downey, Jr., who were compared, respectively, to baseball player Jeff Kent, football coach Mike Tomlin, and baseball player Scott Podsednik.

"That to me was the most surprising thing of all," Mr. Konop said of his appearance among such dynamic company.

"I did scroll through that list and I thought it was pretty funny."

As the Look-alikes were based upon "fan submissions," Mr. Konop can thank "Drew of Waterville, OH" for his nomination.

Mr. Konop said that while he doesn't know who Drew is, many people have mentioned to him in recent months his resemblance to Mr. Bradford, particularly since the University of Oklahoma quarterback received the Heisman on Dec. 13.

Mr. Konop became curious enough to look up photos of Mr. Bradford online, long before the Sports Illustrated feature.

"There are several photographs of him that I even look at and I think it looks like me," he said.

"That's kind of eerie."

But there are distinct differences between the two men. For instance, the Heisman winner is 11 years younger than Mr. Konop, and at least six inches taller and 50 pounds heavier.

Mr. Bradford has some Cherokee Indian blood, and Mr. Konop traces his lineage to Russia. And the redshirt sophomore has two brown eyes, while the commissioner has a rare combination of one green eye and one brown.

The gridiron standout did not return an e-mail inquiry from The Blade yesterday seeking his opinion on their purported resemblance.

Mr. Konop said he learned of his Sports Illustrated appearance on Thursday through a friend, Tracy Evans, an assistant in the front office of the Toledo Mud Hens. Ms. Evans said she can definitely see resemblance between the two.

"I think the hair is one [similarity] for sure," she said.

It was unclear yesterday whether the Konop/Bradford photos would make it into Sports Illustrated's print edition. Still, Mr. Konop said he sees this publicity as something good.

"People will look at that and maybe Google Lucas County, and you never know, they might see it's a great place to locate a business or raise a family," Mr. Konop said. "And there we go, we all win, due to my lookalike status."

Contact JC Reindl at:

jreindl@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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