Nyere Aumaitre's team just played their first game this last weekend. It's a game they lost. So often in losing games, without being the actual coaches who know how everything was supposed to go, you can't normally put a finger on just what happened.
Nyere can and realistically, it's not that hard to figure, because Woodrow Wilson went into their first game of the season without 4 of their defensive starters, due to academic ineligibility. Starters that didn't find out they wouldn't be starters or even players for that matter come the day of the game. "Yeah, they found out they couldn't play the day of the game." Nyere said. "That hurt us a lot, because they are starters for a reason."
"We practiced as if they were going to be on the team, because those guys were the core of our defense. If we knew this could happen, we would have practiced some others and might have been a little better on defense in the first game we played."
You can pretty much pick the team throughout the entire country and any level of play and if one side loses 4 of it's core-group of production, you've already found yourself in a hole that's going to be hard to get out of, that is if you can at all.
Woodrow Wilson couldn't, thus a team picked to win the state title now finds itself 0-1 to start the year. For Nyere, he can empathize with those players, but that doesn't make it any easier for a team so in need of those lost. "We're in a hole now." Nyere said. "It's one we probably wouldn't be in if those guys had played the game."
It comes down to accountability and responsibility, something that Aumaitre has had to adhere to himself. While his GPA (2.3) has put off some recruiters, his effort to get better in the classroom has drawn most of them back, especially with his latest effort on his S.A.T. "I got a 990 the last time I took it and I am retaking it later this year." Aumaitre said.
In fact, though Nyere is like any great football player, what's become the largest part of his goals isn't to be the best player, but to be the best student he can be. "You need that education." he said. "One hit or injury and that could be it and after that, what do you have?".
Uncertainty would be the immediate answer, an answer Nyere doesn't even want to approach as he looks not just to the rest of his high school year, but beyond.
So many schools, the offers still coming in, his options are many, but Aumaitre has one single issue in mind as to what that school has to have before he even looks in their direction. "It's about great academics." Nyere said. "Yeah, I am going to play football, but that's just what I am doing on the side. You go to college to get an education and that's what I am going to do. I'm not worried about anything else but that right now, because you can lose your football career in one play, but you can't lose your education."
Though Nyere may not be concerned with his prowess on the football field, it's that God-given size and ability that have given him a chance to get that education. At 6'5" and 306 lbs., Aumaitre fits the modern-day stereotype of the offensive tackle and to a certain extent, the ever-growing position of offensive guard. There's a lot of kids out there with size though, so what's gotten Aumaitre the accolades and scholarship offers isn't just his size, but what he does with it. "Coaches talk to me about the position, but most don't really even say what position I will play." Nyere said. "They say I have good feet, but it's also my feet that could determine what position I play."
By his size, Nyere is more commonly being looked at as tackle, but some schools like Nebraska have told him that they like him at guard. It's something intriguing to him. "The coaches there (Nebraska) said I have good enough feet to play guard." he said. "And, they said that their guards pull a lot, so that would give me a chance to get better at that part of the game."
Ayere admits that if there is one weakness to his game, it's the fact that he doesn't consider himself a great run-blocker, at least right now, his strength more towards stopping people rather than running them right over. "I won't say it's been easy for me, but I've always done pretty good at pass-blocking." Nyere said. "I just have a lot of success there, but don't have a lot of experience blocking, getting off blocks and running down-field."
"I know that it's something I will have to work on, but coaches say that the only thing I really need to work on to think about playing early is getting physically to the point where I need to be."
That point is not far off, but of his 315 bench and 475 squat, Nyere feels that he's probably not there just yet.
What Nyere feels about his physical ability isn't that far off as to what he thought or in this case, didn't think of what he could do, at least as far as the next level is concerned. It's just one of those things you hear about a very physically gifted young man not realizing just how gifted he is. Nyere sure didn't. "I didn't think it was going to be like this." Nyere said of all the recruiting attendion. "It was a shock to me when schools were calling saying they were interested in me, because I didn't know I was that good."
The realization though (however humbly-slight) has shown Nyere both the great and not-so-great side of what it's like to be touted, recruited and coveted by many. "It's unexpected, but it's great." Nyere said of the attention. "And though I really can't say it's pressure, there's just a lot of anxiety in having so many choices now and trying to figure out which place is best for you."
Most high school players would consider that a gift and point of fact, Aumaitre does as well, it's only the fact that when you've never experienced it, it's not just on the field and in the classroom where the learning becomes even that much more important. "It's new and like I said, I didn't expect it." Aumaitre said. "So, it's just something I am trying to put into perspective every day."
One perspective Nyere has had to learn as he has gone through the recruiting process is some things are not always what they seem. Or, to put it better, what you hear isn't always what you get. Long are the slogans schools have in trying to lure some of the best in the prep-world to their University, thus you don't just have to look real hard at these institutions of higher learning, you have to listen very carefully as well. "When recruiters talk to me, everything they say, it sounds good." he said. "But, I know they could be saying the same thing to another person in a different state."
"You just have to pinpoint the things they mean from the stuff they say to every recruit they have."
"I know it's a business. They way they (the recruiters) talk, it's like it's not one, but I know it is. They talk you up like you are the only one, but you know you aren't. You have to figure out what it is that you want to accomplish in school, see where they are at, but the only way you find out most of what you want to know is when you visit those schools yourself."
"Then, you can see who really wants you, see if you are both on the same page in what you want to do, what they want you to do and everything else. The relationships, all that. You find that out when you visit."
Visits that Aumaitre finds so important are those he hasn't made as of yet and he doesn't even know when he's going to make them, but he knows one place he's visiting for sure. "I know I am going to go visit Nebraska." Nyere said. "When I talked to the coach recruiting me (Jimmy Williams), he didn't talk about football at all. He just said, ‘ok, you have the ability to play for us, now let's talk about grades'. That's what caught my attention first, because some schools, all they want to talk about is football and coach Williams, he never mentioned it, so that's why I am considering them."
While Nyere certainly is interested in the Big Red, that isn't the only school he is looking at. "Oh, I am looking all over right now." Nyere said. "I have 12 written offers and about 40 verbal offers, so that's a lot of potential teams to look at. I can't look at them all, but I have a while to figure it out on where I am going to take all my visits."
And Nyere plans on taking them all, intent on doing his investigative process as thoroughly as possible and as to a decision, well, you can figure that one out.
As for Nyere himself, he says that despite his obvious interest in NU, there's no favorite, because it all goes back to what he feels will be the only real way he's going to get to know what could be his eventual school the most. "You have to go there." he said. "You have go there, look around and get a feel for the place and I know what kind of feeling I want to get."
"Right now, I'll go anywhere that I feel is the best for me, but they have to know that I don't look at football as my life, because you can't play football forever. My education is what matters to me. I just play football because I love to play the game."
Too often, someone defined as a "realist" can also be looked at as someone that doesn't think necessarily in an optimistic manner. What Nyere has done is turn that definition inside out, at least for him, this being a young man that is probably a little firmer based in reality than most prep-stars you are likely to see.
Nyere doesn't have rose colored glasses on about his own ability or what coaches try to tell him, because his foundation is based on what he knows, not what everyone says. Basically, Nyere sees things pretty darn clear.
It's that clarity that has made him better on the field, off the field and as you can see, he's definitely prepared for the meat of the recruiting season. For a young man that admits himself that he didn't expect all the attention he's getting, you would have to say that he seems awfully prepared for all that and any additions to the mix. As the young kids say, he's simply "keeping it real".
"Your friends might sit and tell you how good you are, but they are your friends." Nyere said. "Coaches from colleges might tell you how good you are because they want you to come to your school. You just have to look at it as that no matter what anyone says of how good they think you are, you know that no matter what, you can always get better. I don't think you can ever be that good."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619
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