« McCartney: "I have to find a fit for me" | Main | Northwestern coach: "There is no rift with UM" »

For Nelson 'long battle' will be over soon

Kevin Nelson can't contain his excitement. In a week, the Gainesville Sun's Class 6A-3A Player of the Year will be able to put pen to paper, sign his name on a National Letter of Intent and officially call himself a Miami Hurricane. 

Kevin Nelson For Nelson, a 6-1, 215-pound middle linebacker, National Signing Day can't come fast enough. Neither can June 12th. That's the day he scheduled to graduate from Gainesville High. Three hours after he takes off his gap and gown, Nelson says, he plans to drive down to South Florida where he'll move in with cousin and future University of Miami teammate Demarcus Van Dyke. Soon after that, Nelson says, he plans on putting on an orange and white jersey with the number 52 on it. That would be the same number of his idol, Canes great Ray Lewis. 

Ask Nelson where he'll be come the season opener in September against Florida A&M and he's got a prediction on that, too. He says he'll be starting at middle linebacker, on his way to the ACC Rookie of the Year award and leading the Hurricanes to a national title. 

To say Nelson dreams big would be an understatement. But if you ask his coach, his family and his friends, the fact Nelson is making bold predictions about his future is a welcome relief -- because it wasn't long ago that Nelson wasn't sure where he was headed. 

A troubled teenager, Nelson had trouble coping with the death of his mother, Bonnie Coleman, who died in 2002 after a long battle with brain and lung cancer. His biological father, Connie, who died last year from a stroke, didn't develop a relationship with him until he was older. Discipline and focus? It's taken time for Nelson to wrestle with that.

"It was crazy, man," Nelson said. "My brother was off to college so it was just me and my mother when I was little. My stepfather, when he was in the picture, was usually off to work. So, I'd come home and take care of my mom when she was sick. Sometimes, I wasn't able to do my homework because I was crying at night, trying to see if my mom was OK. It was hard. Things like that mess up a kid at that age. It takes time for them to learn how to be strong, realize that this happened for a reason. It was a battle. It still is to this day."

Nelson's battle became his aunt Shirley Williams' problem. Thankfully, he says, with his cousins off at college and plenty of room for him in her house, Nelson was able to grow up with plenty of support. He'd watch the Golden Girls with his grandmother, Irene Cudog, and his aunt, and iron out his behavioral issues. In a lot of ways, he says, he looks up to Hurricanes coach Randy Shannon, who grew up with plenty of his own family struggles. He considers the way both grew up "a deep bond."

"On Sunday, the last day of my official visit, we were talking about that," Nelson said. "He told me about how things were hard for him growing up, family members he lost. He told me situations like that prepare you for life, make you stronger. The way I see it, he never quit and ended up great. It took me some time to figure out how life is. In the ninth grade, I finally got control of it. I just turned a whole 180 degree turn and made some success in my life."

Now, Nelson says, he can't wait to go battle for Shannon. And the truth is, the Hurricanes might be stealing a superstar under Florida coach Urban Meyer's nose. 

Nelson, rated a four-star recruit by ESPN and the third-best inside linebacker in the country, has developed into a far better player than most expected. He finished his senior season with 141 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and helped Gainesville High to its city championship since 1988. His coach, Ryan Smith, said Nelson and teammate/fellow UM recruit Devont'a Davis (a 6-1, 170-pound cornerback) are the two primary reasons why the program went from 1-8 to 5-5 to 10-2 and its first playoff victory since Clinton Portis was around in 1998.

Kevin Nelson "Great players make great coaches," Smith said. "Miami is getting great players. They led the way for us all year. Their leadership, work ethic and the ability to make plays is phenomenal. If you want to look at one game. Look at the win over Buchholz. We won 14-9. Kevin scored both touchdowns (interception and a fumble recovery) and Devonta intercepts a pass on a two-point conversion at the end of the game to clinch it."

Former UM recruiting coordinator Clint Hurtt jumped on Nelson early. But if you ask Nelson, it was his persistence that got the Hurricanes to offer him a scholarship his junior year after the Gators passed and UCF and Arkansas were the only programs who bit.

"Before Miami even recruited me, I had to call them," Nelson said. "I called Ms. Cindy in the office and got coach Barrow's office number. I kept calling it and calling it until I got coach Barrow on the phone. After that, It just went from there.

"I told him 'I want to be the guy you can count on in fourth down situations, you feel me? Or, the guy you want to put it on his shoulders and be the leader -- the whole season -- of the defense. I don't want to give up no rushing yards, no passing yards and have the DBs and safeties moving, the d-line moving and linebackers making plays.' I told him I wanted to be that guy. He said 'Dang man, I really like the way you're talking.' After that, he fell in love with the way I was talking. I sent him film and two or three weeks later, coach Shannon offered me."

Nelson didn't have to sell himself his senior year. LSU, Florida, and a number of other SEC schools came looking for him. Although the offer to play for LSU "and beat UF every year" was tempting, the Hurricanes stayed on him hard. And soon, UM could be reaping the benefits. With Darryl Sharpton gone, the Hurricanes do not have a bonafide starting middle linebacker. Going into the spring, most expect senior Colin McCarthy to slide over to the middle and Sean Spence, Jordan Futch and Ramon Buchanon to eat up most of the snaps at outside linebacker. Nelson, the only middle linebacker in a class with five outside linebackers, could ultimately find his way into playing time if he catches on quickly.

"I feel like I'm the best linebacker coming in this class -- and I feel like with the guys I've been around and the knowledge I'm going to be receiving it will be something great for the University of Miami," Nelson said. "It's about time for Coach Shannon to get another ring on his finger. I told him I'm going to do everything in my power, with the last breath in my body to get him that championship ring."

A FEW MORE TIDBITS...

> You can never get everything you want into a story or a blog. I've uploaded the complete audio interview with Nelson to our UM audio section. If you are a Canes recruiting junkie and want to get pumped up about this class, check it out. Nelson has a ton of passion.

> Check out this A to Z segment with Nelson in the Gainesville Sun.

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

1st! now send me a free miami herald shirt manny!

I'm confused, some recruits say Shannon doesn't just talk football with kids, talks about life, then other kids say Shannon was all about football and it turned them off. Which is it?

welcome cane , we need your passion for the game it's great . GO CANES

I love how this kid talks, that's what I want to hear outta of a recruit.

Whether the kid can produce on the field or not, you've gotta love his attitude and desire to be a Cane. If all our other kids brought that passion and loyalty to UM we'd be a factor.

as usual, another great story, manny. no doubt in my mind that this kid is hungry and ready to take responsibilities into his hands. reading his story, i really dont know if i would have survived what this kid went through. but an upbringing like that, builds something up that can never be broken down. this kid is going a long way.

We NEEEEED players like this who got that old school swagga, I dont give a, hate the Gators attitude. This kid could be huuuuge for us, so sad Gaynsville passed up on him haha

Where are the "fire Shannon" talkers now?

this is the type of player i like. sounds like a winner at heart. welcome nelson! go canes

At 6'1 215, I hope you can get in the weight room young fellow. Cause Miami has a tradition of great LB, and they weren't 215. i.e. (Lewis, Morgan,Vilma,Campbell). A. Brown, lol j/jk.

We are happy to have you Kevin! Rep that 52!


Sounds like a Canes to me!

ITS ALL ABOUT THE U BABY

Manny,

Thanks for keeping us posted in UM recruiting. With all the less than steller praise on the incoming recruiting class, I still feel really good about the quality of the class. I am skeptical about some of the "we know better than anyone" recruits, but time will tell.

I have 3 questions for you: (1) What I would like to know is a list of potential surprise additions on signing day. I am particularly interested in more depth at the NT, since it was a supposed strength early on (Todd Chandler and Nix).

(2) in your mind, was the recent success of Gator football due to Meyer, Tebow or Meyer+Tebow combo? With one leaving we will know, but I wanted your thoughts.

(3) Who was the guy wearing the UM shirt on the podium during the Colts victory celebration. He was wearing a Reggie Wayne #87, but he was right behind the trophy the whole time.
Thanks for the great work.

Wow,

Guy is flat out leader. Ray Lewis cocky and bold. I think we got the gem of gems -- hurricane fury!

first

I love this young man. He gets me fired up bout the future for the U!

This is what recruiting and college football is all about. After reading what this kid went through, you cheer for him. Plus knowing he has as much passion for this program as any of us, makes you feel good about him coming here. No matter the star ratings or who we didn't get, a kid like this gets to have an opportunity to get a high quality education and play football at a major University. His life is now much better than it ever looked like it was going to be, no matter what he does on the field. That's what it's all about.

I am loving his confidence.

WOW, that is what the U needs. I love this guy. He has the heart and I do not care what Rivals says. When someone is that hungry they play harder and better. Maybe that is all the coaches are looking for. Recruting sites cant measure that. Lets go Canes. Randy Shannon is building the U back.

Really good story. Actually, "GREAT" story. I hope this kids blossoms and finds success at The U. I love that hungry attitude.

CANES...4...LIFE...CANES...4...LIFE
Man just reading that article got me fired up on the inside! This kid is what The "U" is all about, the passion,the excitement, the emotion, im lovn it!! All i've been hearing about is how this class sucks, well with kids like this comn aboard, who cares about the stars, he is a CANE without a doubt and thats exactly what we need! I'm excited about this class. I think we got some hard nose, hard working kids and thats what we need!
CANES...4...LIFE...CANES...4...LIFE

Great, great work Manny!! Kevin, welcome to the University of Miami! U are the type of player that we need to get back to were we should be. I know and respect that for 97% of these kids, this is the biggest decision that they will make up to that point of their lives as regards which college they will attend and that it should be well thought out. That said, I am sick and tired of the "soft" committs and the guys who continually waffle or the guys who know where they want to go, but have to be prima donas, and "keep us all in suspense" with the stupid cap game.

It's also good to see that we did not hear Kevin say this, "they didn't show me any love" or "they did not make me feel like I was really needed". If these kids want a stroke job, they need to go talk to their friends, family or (especially) girl friends. These kids set themselves up for a fall because they want the coaches to tell them that they will not have to work for their job, that it will handed to them. The UM staff does not do that, so that turns a lot of kids off. This interview with Kevin also dispells the lies/sour grapes that some of these kids say when they say "the coaches only talked to me about committing, they did not want to know about me personally, but just when was I going to committ". If the rest of the guys that UM are bringing in (regardless of the amount of stars besides their name) have the same mind set, will and desire as Kevin Nelson, I think we will have a great class. Time will tell, but I do trust in Coach Shannon and the rest of his staff.

Listening to the audio, Kevin Nelson is a natural and inspiring leader. With him out there in the UM locker room I think this kid will do wonders for the emotion of the defense. He has a chip on his shoulder and is hungry to succeed. Welcome to the The U family, Kevin. Looking forward to seeing you play. Go Canes

Them boys from Gainesville are the real deal. Miami needs to recruit from there more. Believe me the city's talent gets overlooked and there is a lot of talent there.

If he is so committed to Miami, why is Rivals announcing that he is taking another visit?

wow sounds like a very dedicated player that oozes talent and HEART!!! something a lot of our players are missing

GREAT POST MANNY! I REALLY LIKE THIS KID... ONE QUESTION THO MANNY. I READ ON RIVALS.COM ON AUBURN TIGERS SITE THAT CORY LEMOINER HAS CUT DOWN HIS LIST TO TWO SCHOOLS AUBURN & FLORIDA STATE IS THIS TRUE? I WOULD HATE FOR HIM TO GO TO FLORIDA STATE I ACTUALLY LIVE IN TALLY UNTIL I GET MY DEGREE THAN I'M OUTTA HERE AND I'M JUST TIRED OFF THIS WHACK CITY $$GETTING$$ ANY OF OUR MIAMI TALENT, THEY COULD CARE LESS ABOUT THE KIDS ALL THEY WANT TO DO IS WHEN (DID ANYBODY SEE THE ESPN OTL REPORT ON HOW THEY KIDS PLAYING FOR THEM READING ON A 2ND GRADE LEVEL). SO MANNY PLEASE CONFIRM IF IT IS TRUE OR NOT. OH, A MANNY IF YOU TALK TO SHANNON PUT THIS BUG IN HIS EAR: (STOP LETTING OUR DAMN MIAMI GUYS GET OUT OF MIAMI!!! RESTORE THE STATE OF MIAMI RECRUITING!!!)

this kid can sure talk the talk...

but can he walk the walk?

It's so great to hear a young man talk this way. GO CANES! GO Kevin Nelson!!

If all this is so, why is he taking a visit elsewhere this weekend? I get free trips, but if you're so sure, why take a trip at all?

Manny...alot of conflicting reports about what happened between UM and T Chandler from Northwestern, and wish you would do a follow up story with actual interviews with the Northwestern HC and staff. According to your counterpart in the Sun Sentinel, an Unnamed source at Northwestern is saying that the coaching staff with discourage their kids from going to UM over this issue unless Randy goes down there and clears the air asap. On the other side, there are comments about Chandler having alot of issues. Would love to know the truth....

WE NEED MORE KIDS LIKE THIS

The charactoer of the players that Randy Shannon has recruited and is recruiting speaks volumes for where he wants the Hurricane team be.

Now thats swagger take a look 305 recruits!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Five-star defensive end Corey Lemonier (Hialeah, Fla.) is now only considering two programs after eliminating Miami-FL and Tennessee, ESPN affiliate Web site AuburnUndercover.com reports.

This is exactly what the Canes need, a BA MLB who wants to be Cane. Now add some DT talent.

WOW.....I like where his head is at....he has the size...played in Florida against good compitition...A three star recruit on Rivals....equals a ***** star recruit in any other state!! Go Canes!!

How do you not LOVE this guy??? Welcome home!

First!!

I like the way this kid is talking myself...This is the type of passion it takes with oneself, in the classroom, locker, and the field to be successful. Not those bunch of stars that these recruiting services slap on these kicks names. Kids sounds like he has what it takes. Stay Focus....[]_[]

I like this dude! We need more hungry young men to come down and get some! I wish him and every other cane player, fan, etc the best! Peace.

Every one talks about UM losing S. Fla recruits, but how about talking about UF losing recruits in thier back yard. The 'Turds are obviously slipping. LOL!

He aint no Jean Claude VanDamme

Kevin's got a great 'can do' attitude that hopefully will translate into success on the field and in the classroom and infect the rest of the team. His past hardships and experiences should give him the added maturity to tackle college and Div 1 ball. Push those veterans to do better!

Manny,

I saw this guy (and Devont'a) play twice. I was at the Buchholz game, as well.

UM stole two playmakers from under Urban's nose. I haven't been more excited about a couple of recruits in a long time. Put your seat belts on, Canes fans.

I also have a prediction. Nelson will leave UM a highly decorated player.

I also believe this is as close as UM will ever get again to having another Ray Lewis. They have very similar personalities. Drive. Work ethic. Leadership. Character. Passion. It's all there.

this kid is going to be the truth.

Manny,

I noticed where you mentioned all the L.B.'s Miami had coming back but you Didn't Mention Arthur Brown in this story about Nelson. I like the kids attitude but he won't start, unless he has a linebacking P.H.D. in directing the defense before he gets here.

Love the swagger .... Must be a cane !!!!

Welcome aboard, Mr. Nelson. You my friend, are bringing the right attitude to the U. He has that "take no prisoners, balls to the wall, all out hustle, fight for every inch" mentality that made Ray Lewis so great. Maybe some of that can rub off on Arthur Brown!

1 2 »

The comments to this entry are closed.