Little-known Grant Nelson Comes Highly Recommended

The most compelling evaluation came from his head coach who confirmed a relatively little-known LDS linebacker who signed a letter of intent with BYU yesterday is as good as <b>Paul Posluszny</b>, his former linebacker who started as a true freshman last year for Penn State.

Hopewell High School (Penn.) head coach Dave Vestal confirmed to yesterday that BYU-bound Grant Nelson, a 6-3, 215 pound standout with 4.6/40 speed "with a little bit of a mean streak," is a "special player and leader who really has a nose for the ball."

The school's athletic director, Don Short, added that Nelson was "a tremendous individual that BYU can't go wrong with. He's a very good role model and leader for our students who is ranked second in his class" with a 3.9 GPA, 1340 SAT score and 33 on his ACT test.

Coach Vestal added Nelson "is a great recruit who makes everyone around him better. He was heavily recruited by Div. 1 schools early, but the (LDS) mission was not a comfortable thing for them. So many coaches in this area were scared away by that."

Vestral noted that Nelson was as impactful a player as his former linebacker star Posluszny. "Paul is probably one-tenth faster (40 time), but Grant plays with better leverage, knee bend and explosion." Asked to rate them both on a scale of 1-10, he said "I'd rate them both 10. They are very comparable. We're going to miss him (Nelson). He was also a tremendous tight end who pancaked most of the players he went up against," Vestral said.

A TBS reporter was on the phone with Nelson, his coach and athletic director when they faxed his letter of intent (LOI) at 9:39 a.m. EST Wednesday before a small gathering of news media representatives. One other Hopewell player, defensive end Craig Bokor, also sent his LOI at the same time to the University of Pittsburgh.

As his LOI went through the fax machine, Nelson's thought at that moment to a TBS reporter was, "I've always wanted to play for BYU. It's time now to work hard and get ready."

Nelson clarified the reason most major schools lost interest was because he was probably too honest. "He (coach) told me to be honest to the recruiters. I told them (from the beginning) I wanted to play for BYU and go on a (LDS) mission. Ironically, BYU did not formally offer Nelson a scholarship until Monday, two days before LOI day.

His longtime dream to play football for BYU stemmed from the fact that his parents, Curtis and Donna Nelson, met and married while at BYU, and an elder brother and sister, Jared and Dianne, also graduated from the Provo school.

On the field, Nelson had stellar seasons his junior and senior seasons. As a junior, he recorded 92 tackles, 5 sacks and 1 interception. Last year, he led the team with 95 tackles and 2 sacks. He was named to the All-Conference First Team both years; All-Academic Team; All-State Honorable Mention; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette West Fabulous 22 selection; Hopewell team MVP and captain.

Schools that recruited him included West Virginia, Penn State, Kentucky, Northwestern, Indiana and Connecticut.

BYU assistant Barry Lamb started calling last Easter, months after Nelson sent a highlight video tape following his junior season. "Ever since my brother went up there when I was eight or nine, I've always been a BYU football fan. Growing up, I always wanted to play there and it means a lot to me to be able to play for them now," Nelson continued.

"Coach Lamb is great. He's serious about football and helping me to become the best linebacker I can be. I'm looking forward to playing for him."

Nelson's parents said "we're very excited for him. We never pushed him in football or any sports, but we encouraged him to follow through on anything he did. He just loved football."

His father Curtis, a 1974 BYU graduate, added that "this has been his dream and we're very excited for him. We were getting a little apprehensive because things didn't appear to be working out with BYU (scholarship offer). But we are so happy because they will be able to accommodate his mission.

His mother Donna, a 1973 BYU graduate, noted that "it's been a roller coaster ride for him until he got his scholarship offer from BYU. I was probably jumping up and down more for him at the time," she joked.

She said Grant took his official recruiting visit to BYU on Jan. 9 "and he couldn't talk enough about the trip and the facilities."

Grant said he met with head coach Gary Crowton during his Provo visit before he was offered by the Cougars. "He said he really liked me, but to look at my other options in case they didn't have a scholarship for me. His reaction? "I'd rather they be straight up-front and honest rather than tell me what I wanted to hear. I'm glad things worked out."

In an earlier interview, his mother admitted she discouraged her older sons from playing football for fear of injury. "Grant came along and begged and begged and he did well. He was out to prove me wrong. I never dreamed of seeing my son playing football at BYU. It's like a dream.

"To see everything fall into place according to what he hoped for, prayed for and dreamed of is sort of a miracle to us," Donna continued. "We're looking forward to seeing him grow physically and spiritually."

Recognizing his son received one of the last BYU scholarships available, Grant's father added, "I know he's not well known, but I'm sure he'll prove himself. I'm pleased BYU gave him a chance. I'm very positive about his future. I've seen him work hard. He's almost religious about his workouts and I expect great things from him.

A day before LOI day, Grant said defensive coordinator Bronco Mendenhall called to congratulate him on receiving a scholarship and "then he told me to get into shape…"

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