Nov. 19, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — When it comes to football, there aren’t many things more uninviting than two-a-day practices. But those long, hot, summer workouts are exactly what tempted University of Iowa freshman Anthony Nelson back to the sport he loves.
Nelson was 6-foot-2 with a slender build after his freshman year at Waukee (Iowa) High School. He enjoyed success in basketball and thought he would specialize on the hardwood.
Until he took a car ride in August past his former Warriors football teammates.
“Once the season hit and they started doing two-a-days, I drove by and saw them (practicing) and realized how much I missed it,” Nelson said. “I had to come back.”
As a senior, Nelson was named team captain, first-team all-district, first-team all-state, and Class 4A Western Iowa Defensive Player of the Year.
His parents attended the University of Iowa and his father, Jeff, lettered at defensive tackle for the Hawkeyes from 1990-92. Jeff compiled 169 tackles, 24 tackles for loss, and eight sacks.
“He shared about how special Kinnick (Stadium) is to him and how much it meant to him in his life to play for the Hawkeyes,” Anthony said of his father. “He hopes I have the same experience and can have the same good memories.
“I feel I should live up to what he did here, but at the same time, it’s my experience this time and he has been good about that.”
“Anthony is a tremendous young man and we were excited about recruiting him. He is a very athletic defensive end, not the same as Matt Nelson, but very similar to him from last year’s class. He is doing a good job in the classroom and on the field. He is getting bigger and stronger and we’re excited about his future.”
UI football coach
Jeff was named Iowa’s defensive most valuable player after the Hawkeyes defeated Iowa State, 21-7, on Sept. 12, 1992. Ironically, Anthony briefly entertained the thought of playing for the Cyclones, but pull from the Hawkeye program prevailed.
“I had good connections with the people and especially the players,” Nelson said. “I had the best connection with the players here and I thought I would fit in, and that ultimately made the decision.”
Nelson is taller — and a lot less skinny — than he was in high school. He is now a 6-7, 220-pound defensive end. Hawkeye fans might be a little confused if they eventually see Nelson bookends on the defensive front. Redshirt freshman Matt Nelson from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, is a 6-8 defensive end who wears No. 96. Anthony wears No. 98.
“Anthony is a tremendous young man and we were excited about recruiting him,” UI head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He is a very athletic defensive end, not the same as Matt Nelson, but very similar to him from last year’s class. He is doing a good job in the classroom and on the field. He is getting bigger and stronger and we’re excited about his future.”
No. 5 Iowa is off to a 10-0 start for the first time in program history. Nelson won’t see the field this season, but he is picking up on what it takes to excel in college. What does he see as the main difference between high school and college?
“The level of commitment from everybody around you,” Nelson said. “In high school, it’s different, but everybody here is 100 percent committed to being a better football player and helping this team win.”
The Hawkeyes can clinch a share of the Big Ten Conference West Division championship with a victory over Purdue (2-8 overall, 1-5 Big Ten) on Saturday.
“It is special. It’s a historic season, but we don’t look at it like that,” Nelson said. “We try to get better and I’m trying to buy into that mentality that we’re supposed to get better every week.”