Ray Brewer, iphone photo
Friday, Oct. 24, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas Sun sports reporters Ray Brewer and Case Keefer run through some of the plethora of playoff possibilities on the lower level before getting to their picks.
Carter Nielson’s high school football career was already respectable entering this season.
The Green Valley High senior offensive lineman had been a starter since his freshman year, helping the Gators three times reach the playoffs and last season win a league title.
But Nielson wanted more. He wasn’t satisfied with being good. He wanted to be great.
“It was about (showing) I could play in college,” Nielson said.
The 6-foot-5, 315-pound senior Nielson dedicated himself in the offseason to becoming a college prospect. He became stronger, improved on his speed and footwork, and traveled to various out-of-state camps to compete against other recruits.
The results have been obvious.
He’s become one of Green Valley’s most valuable players, anchoring a line that’s paved the way for the Gators to rush for a remarkable 300 yards per game. More important, he landed a scholarship offer from Weber State and has heavy recruiting interest from other schools such as Southern Utah.
After solid performances in marquee victories against Coronado and Canyon Springs in the past two weeks, Nielson is the Sun’s player of the week. The award isn’t designed for players already established. Rather, it’s for players such as Nielson having breakthrough seasons.
“The biggest difference for him is the mental part of the game. He has become a lot more mentally tough,” Green Valley coach Brian Castro said. “We always knew he had the ability, but sometimes the mental toughness wasn’t there. This year it has been there, and he has had a great attitude.”
While Nielson has been a force, especially in the ground game, he’s taking little credit for Green Valley’s success. Some consider the Gators the favorite to win the Sunrise Region, and Nielson says that’s because of all the players on the roster.
It’s the kind of attitude Castro raves about when discussing his top lineman. Nielson had previously been in the shadow of Tyrell Crosby, who graduated last year and has started as a true freshman at Oregon. Now, Nielson is taking ownership of the line, and the results are obvious.
“Being a senior and being in a leadership position has been really good for him and forced him to grow up a little,” Castro said.
Nielson’s offseason regime, which included winning top lineman honors at a scouting camp in Utah, gave him confidence he would excel during the season. He also added muscle to his frame and dropped about 10 pounds, making him quicker getting off the line of scrimmage.
Green Valley (6-1) is on a five-game winning streak and in the driver’s seat to win the Southeast League title.
Most of the credit typically goes to Albert Lake, a two-way starter and one of the area’s top rushers, or three-year quarterback Christian Lopez. In the trenches, though, Nielson and the others have been equally valuable.
And that’s what is helping take his career to new heights.