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PSU commit Andrew Nelson eager to play

10/2/2012
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NittanyNation: Andrew Nelson Interview

Josh Moyer talks with Penn State commit Andrew Nelson (Hershey, Pa./Hershey) about his future with the Nittany Lions.

PALMYRA, Pa. -- Andrew Nelson planted his right foot on the sideline and leaned forward like a sprinter waiting for the starter pistol -- waiting to get back in the game.

The two-way starter took just one play off. He squirted some water through his facemask and watched his opponents rush for six yards. That was enough.

"Coach!" the four-star offensive tackle yelled Friday, tapping his chest. "You want me in?" Hershey coach Mark Painter smiled but shook his head no. Nelson never unbuckled his chinstrap.

The Penn State commit's desire to play football is evident. The two-way starter never steps near the bench, always hovers around a coach and asked -- three plays later --- "Coach, can I go in yet?" Penn State saw that desire on film, and Painter told the PSU staff all about that work ethic.

"That's exactly the kind of kid you want," Painter added after the win.

When Penn State assistant Larry Johnson watched him during a summer camp, he hoped to lure the 6-foot-6, 275-pound prospect to his defensive line. When assistant Mac McWhorter heard from Painter and sat down to view Nelson's film, he wanted the in-state lineman on his offensive line. (McWhorter won out.)

Nelson doesn't mind which position he plays. Growing up, he spent Saturday afternoons watching Penn State and weekday nights dreaming about black cleats and nameless jerseys. He just wants to sprint out of that south tunnel at Beaver Stadium.

So, when the NCAA sanctions hit, Nelson needed just a weekend to dust off any concerns about his dream school.

"I was worried at first about people decommitting and transferring, but there weren't many," he said. "And, yeah, we might not be able to play in bowl games our first couple years, but I think other stuff is so much more important than bowl games."

That "stuff" includes academics and a good coaching staff, two priorities for Nelson. His family also lives just a two-hour drive from campus.

"All that's still there," he added. "We want to change the university for the good. That's why I decided to stay."

The left tackle routinely pancaked defensive ends Friday before sprinting upfield after linebackers. Painter even moved him inside to offensive guard for a handful of plays -- and Hershey ran right behind him. On his first play at guard, Nelson pushed aside two defenders like tackling dummies and his tailback picked up 10 yards.

The senior captain, who towers about a half-foot over most of his teammates, didn't allow a sack, either. But quarterback Zach Drayer said he's come to expect that.

"I don't think I've been hit from the blind side yet this season," Drayer said. "If I have, it's probably my fault for hanging on to the ball so long. He's unbelievable."

Nelson swats at praise like a fly. On defense, he constantly shifts from left DE to right DE, but double-teams remain inevitable. When asked whether teams game-plan around him, he began complimenting a teammate's strong play before finally admitting that, yes, teams know where he is it all times.

But if taking on two linemen will improve his team, he has no problems with it. And, like Hershey, the 2013 commit said he's willing to do whatever he can to help the Nittany Lions -- even if they do ask him to take a few plays off.