Victor Nelson has been under the recruiting radar as he recovers from January shoulder surgery. Fortunately, he says the problem was less severe than first thought.
"I didn't tear it, but I stretched out my labrum which caused a bone break. So there was a piece of bone floating around in my shoulder. It was repaired arthroscopically."
He couldn't do any weight lifting during the winter, but he took advantage of his time in other ways.
"I'm feeling great. I've slimmed down and improved on everything I can. I've just been running a lot and doing a lot of pool workouts. And I'm still on a rabbit food diet where I just eat salads and protein. That's about it."
Nelson has recently resumed strength work this past month.
"I actually progressed much faster than they even thought I would. So I've been able to step up and get it stronger. It's a slow process, but it's coming back."
Maine South head coach David Inserra is excited about his 6'-7", 290 pound star's commitment to improvement.
"He's got to get stronger. The offseason hurt him a little bit because he couldn't lift in full, but it hasn't hurt his work ethic. He's a hard worker and extremely coachable kid."
Inserra has no doubt Nelson has what it takes to be a top college tackle.
"I think his greatest assets are his quickness off the ball and his flexibility. He has extremely flexible hips. That's the thing scouts look at. When he's down in his stance and comes off the ball, what he looks like there. I think he's far ahead of the game that way.
"He really gets off the ball well and gets to the second level linebackers extremely well. We think he moves laterally as good as anybody, especially any kid that size. You usually don't see that. And he's got long arms which is gonna help with the pass blocking especially."
Some talent evaluators doubted his desire to hit after watching him go about his business without extreme aggressiveness. Inserra says there was a reason for that, but it has been corrected.
"I think earlier in the year he was concerned with his technique, wanting to be perfect with his technique. We got to the point where we told him, 'Victor, stop worrying about technique and start mauling people.'
"He would see on film the technique was good, but about the third game he realized he can handle any of these guys. The confidence grew, and he started mauling people. The great thing was he started taking a lot of pride in that.
"You do that in practice and it translate to the games. He improved by leaps and bounds in terms of his aggressiveness and tenacity throughout the season. And then he got five extra weeks of practice in the playoffs against some of the highest-caliber talent."
Nelson shares a slightly different version but otherwise agrees with his coach.
"People told me that I wasn't being aggressive, and I got sick of them not seeing what I was really doing. I was moving around really easily, and I was pancaking them, but they still said I wasn't mauling them. At the end of the year, I was just going all-out to try and prove them wrong."
Nelson has the experience to go along with his size and athleticism according to Inserra.
"He's already played in 28 games. That's what people forget. Hopefully after his senior year he'll be in that range of 40 games played. That's immeasurable in terms of going to that next level.
"The sky's the limit for him. He's getting stronger, but when he goes to college, that's their job. He's probably gonna be a redshirt. Once he gets two years in, I think he can be a three year starter at any school he goes to."
Nelson has definite ideas on what he wants in a college and football program. Not surprisingly, it is similar to how Inserra runs the Maine South program.
"Good academics and good athletics. For the football team, I just want to be part of the family. I'd rather be a part of a family than a group of all-stars that don't get along because you'll get much farther as a family. You'll get much farther as a football player if you trust and believe the people around you. It will make you work that much harder.
"Our coaches do a great job of getting us to bond. As a team, the seniors just make sure everybody bonds and stay close to each other. So we never cut each other down."
Nelson is getting plenty of college attention despite his surgery. He lists his scholarship offers.
"Besides Illinois, Alabama, Indiana, Boston College, Vanderbilt, Wisconsin, Iowa, and Northwestern. I'm going to make some unofficial visits this summer, and I'll do some camps when I'm allowed to.
"I can lift and everything, I just haven't been cleared for hitting contact. I haven't made any specific plans yet. I refer to my time-consultant, aka my mother. She does all that for me."
Nelson can't wait for that final clearance. He is excited about his senior season.
"I think we'll be great as always. It just depends on how much we do this summer and how much we bond. We have all kinds of talent, we just have to make sure everybody's disciplined. Which we will."