Truckee football | Four more Wolverines to play collegiate ball
Any one of these Wolverines could turn a high school football game into an opposing coach’s nightmare and#8212; and they did.
With a football in hand, they burned defenders with swift footwork, bowled them over with weight-room strength and, in the case of one Wolverine, even leaped clear over their heads with a single bound.
They were just as nasty on the other side of the ball, too, creating havoc from their respective defensive positions as their Truckee team held opponents to a measly 5.4 points per game.
And as Truckee head coach Bob Shaffer pointed out, and#8220;they’re all very smart players,and#8221; who each put in the time and effort to become such accomplished athletes on the gridiron.
Their talents did not go unnoticed at the next level, as Truckee standouts James DePew, Morgan Nevin, Colin Christian and Mitch Nelson each will play college football in the fall.
DePew signed a letter of intent to play at Division II Western Oregon University, located near Salem. Nevin will compete as an invited walk-on at Division I Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, and both Nelson and Christian will play at Santa Barbara Community College in Southern California.
After watching game film on DePew and meeting him during a campus visit, Western Oregon head coach Arne Ferguson said he looks forward to working with the 6-foot-3, 200-pound tight end and defensive end.
and#8220;What intrigued us is his size and his versatility on offense and defense,and#8221; Ferguson said. and#8220;He has great ball-catching ability and he makes plays once the ball is in his hands. And he’s also very good on defense.and#8221;
Ferguson said he anticipates DePew and#8212; the fastest player on the Truckee team each of the past two seasons, Shaffer said and#8212; playing receiver at Western Oregon.
and#8220;We really like his athletic ability to come in as a receiver. We know he’s already a very athletic tight end, and then we’ll go from there,and#8221; the coach said. and#8220;We’re very excited to have him, especially coming from a strong program (at Truckee).and#8221;
DePew is versatile indeed, as he earned first team All-State and All-League honors at both tight end and defensive end, while he also handled punting duties. When asked where he was most valuable for the Wolverines, on offense or defense, Shaffer could hardly decide.
and#8220;That’s a tough one,and#8221; he said, and#8220;but I think for us, because we stress defense so much, I’m going to say defense. Because with him playing defensive end, he really forced teams to send two people over to block him most times. And when they didn’t, he was back there chasing the quarterback and causing him to throw the ball awful early.and#8221;
DePew caught 20 passes for 335 yards (16.8 average) last season, with three touchdowns, while he recorded five sacks and 49 total tackles on defense.
Nevin, at 6-1 and a solid 215 pounds, was a bruising force from his linebacker and fullback positions. He was voted All-State and All-League Defensive Player of the Year, as the hard-hitting senior tallied a team-high 130 tackles. On offense he was voted to the All-League second team at running back, averaging 10 yards per carry (652 yards total) and six touchdowns. He also caught 20 passes for 343 yards, with three TDs.
and#8220;He’s very physical and very smart,and#8221; Shaffer said of Nevin, adding that he’ll try to play outside linebacker under June Jones at SMU. and#8220;He has a good football sense, but he also studied film and grasped what we were teaching, and then did it out on the football field. He was basically our quarterback on defense, so to speak.and#8221;
The bigger the game, the better Nevin was. In the state championship his senior year, Nevin overwhelmed Moapa Valley on both sides of the ball. He scored three touchdowns in the game, including a 45-yard burst in the fourth quarter that helped seal Truckee’s 27-7 win. He rushed for 142 yards on 13 carries, caught three passes for 77 yards and terrorized the Pirates with his aggressive defensive play.
and#8220;He not only led by telling or showing kids how it was done, but he was one of the hardest-working guys we had, for sure,and#8221; Shaffer said. and#8220;And it’s still that way today.and#8221;
Christian and Nelson are following in the footsteps of another former Truckee standout, defensive back Randon Nunez, a 2004 high school grad who starred at Santa Barbara Community College under head coach Craig Moropoulos.
and#8220;We’ve watched them (Christian and Nelson) on film, and we’ve had Truckee players in the past, and they’re always very solid student-athletes in every way, shape and form,and#8221; Moropoulos said. and#8220;So we’re excited about the potential of these guys.and#8221;
Christian will play running back for the Santa Barbara Vaqueros and Nelson receiver. Both were impact players in multiple facets for the Wolverines, as Nelson was voted to the All-State and All-League first team at cornerback and the All-League first team and All-State second team at wide receiver. Christian was an All-State first team selection at running back and an All-League linebacker.
and#8220;They play a very physical style up there, and that’s going to hopefully translate to the kind of player that we like,and#8221; Moropoulos said.
Both players ignited Truckee fans with dazzling plays. Nelson, who also returned kickoffs and punts, juked defenders out of their shoes with quick, shifty moves, while he was always a threat to pick off a pass and take it the distance. Christian proved himself as a hard-nosed runner who could lower his shoulder and deliver a blow just about as well as he could skirt tackles in the open field. He even hurdled a standing defender on several occasions, sending Truckee fans into a buzz.
and#8220;He didn’t mind being physical as a runner, and he also had great vision,and#8221; Shaffer said of Christian, who led the Wolverines in rushing, with 1,034 yards on 112 carries, with 11 TDs. and#8220;So not only could he run you over and hurt you, he could make you look silly by making you miss, or by jumping over the top of you. He also has good hands and runs good routes, so he’s a pretty complete running back in this day and age, where you have to block, catch, run, all of the above.and#8221;
Shaffer said Christian’s strength is his toughness and unwillingness to accept failure.
and#8220;He refused to take no for an answer. He was going to make it happen. It didn’t bother him to carry it on his shoulders,and#8221; Shaffer said.
Nelson not only is quick on his feet and naturally athletic, the fiery senior also has beefed up in the weight room since the season ended, according to his coach.
and#8220;He’s gotten thicker,and#8221; Shaffer said. and#8220;And Mitch is very quick. He brings several things to the plate. He was our punt returner and kick returner, and he just does a lot of things well.and#8221;
Nelson led Truckee in receiving, finishing with 21 catches for 403 yards (19.2 yards per catch), with five TDs. He also averaged 6.5 yards per rush and had three TDs, while recording 44 tackles and an interception on defense.
and#8220;We’ve had face-to-face contact, and I was impressed with both of those guys,and#8221; Moropoulos said of the Truckee duo. and#8220;Just meeting them once, it seemed like they were really solid guys.and#8221;
The man responsible for getting the ball to the four Truckee playmakers, All-State MVP quarterback Ben Bolton, signed a letter of intent in early April to play at Linfield College in Oregon.