The defensive line coach at NC State has plenty of young talent to work with in 2015 as he is in charge of what might be the Wolfpack’s deepest position. Mike Rose and Monty Nelson are the only two players in the three-deep of the defensive line that have more than two years of college experience entering the season opener against Troy on Saturday.
With such a young group under his care, the ability to teach is paramount as NC State seeks to continue its surge forward as a football program. Luckily for the Wolfpack, the players have a coach in Nielsen who embraces both personal instruction and the regimented process of the season.
“One game at a time is the mindset,” Nielsen said. “One game, one day, one play at a time. I am not looking past Troy.
“Really, to be honest with you, I am not looking past tomorrow. We are going to watch and grade our film. We are going to detail the heck out of it and find the things our guys aren’t doing well. Then we are going to go out and fix it so that we are ready to go out and play.”
Nielsen played at USC from 1998 through 2001 and was an All-Pac 10 Conference selection in 1999. It was there he first met up with Dave Doeren--who was a graduate assistant with the Trojans during Nielsen’s first two seasons.
The two linked up again 12 years later when Nielsen joined Doeren’s staff at Northern Illinois. The duo made the move to NC State after the 2012 campaign and the season opener on Saturday will mark the beginning of their fifth season together.
For Nielsen, the partnership with Doeren and the move to NC State have both been beyond expectations.
“I truly believe in what we do here,” Nielsen said. “I believe in coach Doeren and the way we have done things for five years through the process of teaching and coaching our guys at their position.
“I love this place. I have got a great head coach, a great defensive coordinator, and we have got great guys on the staff. Our players are awesome, and we’ve recruited most of them now. It is just a fantastic place to live. The community has been fantastic. I have made a lot of close friends already and have been here going on close to three years. It is awesome.”
The excitement and belief is not exclusive to the late season surge in 2014. The new indoor practice facility along with the renovated Talley Student Center is something Nielsen feels can only help NC State attract top-tier talent.
“When you bring a guy and you go in [the indoor] facility it is unbelievable,” Nielsen said. “Talley is also beautiful. It is buzzing. The first couple of days of class I saw some pictures and there were people all over the place. That is going to attract good football players, guys who want to come and be a part of that.”
When fall camp opened, Nielsen could be seen bouncing up and down during drills and instructioning his players with passion. Those are the traits most embraced by Doeren--who has often professed that he feels the month before the regular season begins is the most fun.
“I like guys who get after it,” Doeren said of his assistants. “[Nielsen] is a guy with a lot of passion. He comes to work everyday and that’s what I like to see.”
“Being a defensive line coach I think you have to coach a little more high energy,” Nielsen said of his approach. “The guys are a little bit bigger so sometimes you have got to get them going, but I always want to stay with fundamentals through the process. The little things, the details of the position. You just make it as perfect as you can in practice so you can just go out and play on game day.”
One of the few veterans on the defensive line, Rose is effusive in his praise for Nielsen and gives him much of the credit for his development at NC State. The graduate student ranked third in the ACC in 2014 in tackles for loss.
“He is so hands on,” Rose said. “He makes sure you understand. He has enthusiasm. It is hard to express how much he has helped me throughout my career. He is a great coach and a great man.”
His greatest hope is that the lessons he teaches on the field extend to the classroom and to all other facets of life. For Nielsen, the football field is not the only place that his kids can win. When he sees his work manifest itself into success it gives him a thrill--whether it be as an athlete, student, or simply as a man.
“That is what coaches are; they are teachers,” Nielsen said. “We are teachers first, then mentors and then coaches. That is where my mind is and there always is a teachable moment, a lesson to learn and a fundamental to teach.
“That is why you are a coach. One of my favorite things is graduation. I always go to my guys’ graduation. That is awesome. It is all those four or five years of teaching coaching, mentorship and helping those young men that are getting their degree. To think that you had some small part of that, I enjoy it.”