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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

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"with the last breath in my body"

Love it!

Remember Portis! Welcome Nelson............

My 2 cents worth... The U gets a few and looses a few. The program can not possibly get everyone it wants. The best you can do is get the kids that can fill in where you loose players to Grad, or those that skip out or fail out. Once that is done then you can go after the diamonds in the rough. This kid and a few others will be a pleasant addition to the U football program. If you have talent and a good head for grades I see no reason to play as a freeshman. Spring ball and the fall tune up should be a real pleasure to witness. positive attitude will get you a little further than just talent and a so so attitude in playing. A kid comes in with upbeat attitude and it rubs off on others. This is good to see. Now lets see the action go from the playbook to the field. 2010 will be exciting and I for one can hardly wait. Thanks

I like this nelson kid he is a die hard miami fan and I'll take a die hard 3 star over a not sure 5 star.......Reading this article made me happy looking forward to seeing this kid mixing things up on the field......Cant wait for spring ball to come around, I cant want to see Lamar miller I heard this man is sick

I like that sawg...but he better walk that walk!

If we're passing up 5-stars to get kids like this, then I'm all for it. This kid makes me want to call down and buy season tickets and fly down every week from Chicago just to watch him practice. We filled up the last few classes with raw talent and we're filling up this one with no-nonsense, hard working, exceptionally motivated players who will do anything to win. We need those guys more than anything.

And it's more than just heart that will make this kid great. He's got that chip on his shoulder, that 'us against the world' attitude that made the U great. Well done Shannon, and I hope this kid gets everything he wants.

Go Canes!

I am loving his confidence.

Posted by: 202cane | January 27, 2010 at 09:58 AM

A. Brown say the same thing 2 years ago and U ate that up too.

Welcome to the U Nelson.. Make sure to put your money where your mouth is when fall camp starts..

Hey all of you so called college recruits, before you sign, reconsider the "U" for your choice if you want to be merely good in college and may not make the pros or Great and make an impact in the NFL. 10 Miami Hurricanes going to the Pro Bowl. Here is the list, read it and weap all of you pretend college programs. Play football in college and be forgotten, or play football at Miami and become an icon.

The former Hurricanes - which are the most of any other college program - selected to the Pro Bowl include wide receiver Andre Johnson (Houston Texans), wide receiver Reggie Wayne (Indianapolis Colts), defensive lineman Vince Wilfork (New England Patriots), linebacker Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens), safety Ed Reed (Baltimore Ravens), safety Brandon Meriweather (New England Patriots), offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie (Minnesota Vikings), linebacker Jonathan Vilma (New Orleans Saints), running back Frank Gore (San Francisco 49ers) and safety Antrel Rolle (Arizona Cardinals

I LOVE THIS GUY!!! WOW Ray lewis cockiness..I hope he is half the player and we will have the guy we need...WELCOME HOME! to bad he was not here for Spring...but it sounds great!

i love this guy.

4 star

Welcome aboard my man. Its going down. O yeah, stay off grassy,theres nothing but a bunch of idiots with nothing to do with their time on there.

For all you starchasers, I did a little historical research on rivals. Derrelle Revis (the No. 1 shutdown corner in the NFL), was a 3-Star out of high school, and committed to Pittsburgh over a few MAC schools. On the counter-side, Ryan Moore was a 5-star, the no. 1 ranked receiver in the country, and blew.

Nice article, so why is Kevin suddenly listed as a "Soft Verbal"?

Do all you Shannon haters now understand what the man is doing? I would rather have 20 Kevin Nelsons than to have 20 Lamarcus Joyners any day!!! It's about what's in your heart and not how many stars they rate you! The "U" will be alright!!!!!!

Told yall to chill to NSD day Coach no what he doing.

I really LOVE this kid. The loyalty is unbelievable. Welcome to the U kid.

And Manny, LOVE the links.

Rayed third overall MLB in the nation? That is recruiting a need!

Over the past 5 years we have lacked a MLB to shore up our D. The last few games Sharpton seemed to be getting it, and now he is gone. Get this kid on the field.

I would assume there will be a lot of U pro bowl players on campus over the weekend when kids make their final visits. Go Canes.

6'-1" and 214lbs is a very decent size for a Miami inside LB. Lewis, Barrow, Vilma and Morgan were all about the same size. Our LB’s are always a little undersized because our coaches prefer speed.

I hope all you Randy haters heard this and i am sure you all know a lot more about football and the UM the JJ does:

quotes form JJ interview this am.

Q: What kind of a year do you think Randy Shannon had with the Hurricanes?

A: "Randy Shannon had a really good year. When you consider all the injuries they had and how young the team was . . . I thought he had a good year. Now, you'd like the team to finish on a winning note against Wisconsin. But I think they'll be much better next year."

Q: With National Signing Day less than a week away, are all those recruiting lists overrated as far as where UM ranks?

A: "I think Randy and his staff have zeroed in on what they need to improve as a team. Look at some of the great classes that we had. Jimmie Jones did not have a single offer. Russell Maryland had one offfer. Rob Chudzinski . . . Villanova was the only offer. So we took a lot of players that we wanted, but weren't highly recruited. I think Randy is doing the same thing. He has proven in the last few years that he knows talent and he knows how to recruit."

Welcome to the U MrNelson. Hope he has a great career!!!!!!!!!(native son, puna, etc who had to ask "where are all the shannon haters? no one said there was'nt a single good to great player in the 2010 class, any ways this article is on Kevin Nelson and i am a fan of his already , so i won't sit here and respond to puna, native son etc, i have a smile on my face as this is 1 kid UM got this year ,that i am anxious to see) go canes!!!!!!!!!p.s. D'evonta Davis is another player that has many people excited, good luck to him too!

I guess this kid bleeds orange and green and scarlet every now and then. If he is so committed why is he visiting Rutgers in the middle of winter? Teammate Davis is visiting South Florida...what is going on? Both are soft verbals now.

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