Double Impact: BP’s Nelson provides punch on both sides of the ball
Published 8:32 pm Wednesday, October 7, 2015
BLOOMING PRAIRIE — When Blooming Prairie senior football player Anthony Nelson is drained after making a big hit or a big run, he has a little trick that helps him get back on track.
He grabs a bottle of water and he takes three sips out of it. Nelson isn’t about to go as far as calling it a superstition, but it’s something he’s done since his freshman year.
If an old ritual is what it takes to keep Nelson fresh, the Awesome Blossoms are perfectly fine with it. After all, they ask a lot out of Nelson. He plays wide receiver on offense, safety on defense and he plays on every special teams group except for the extra point team.
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Nelson, who prefers playing on defense, doesn’t just play a lot, he plays very well. On offense, BP has lined him up in the backfield, used him on sweeps, bubble screens and he’s been key in the downfield passing game. Nelson leads the Blossoms in receiving yards (322), rushing yards (525) and touchdowns (14). On defense, Nelson leads BP in tackles (80) and interceptions (3).
Nelson hasn’t just been consistent with the ball in his hands, he’s been explosive. He has produced 14 plays of 20 yards or more and five plays of 40 yards or more this season.
“Each year the role kind of increases and this year there’s a lot of plays directed towards me. That’s really exciting and fun,” said Nelson, who has been on the varsity squad since he was a freshman. “My confidence is up a lot. I know that I’m the oldest and usually bigger, stronger and smarter than the guys I’m playing against. I know what I’m able to do from years past.”
BP head coach Chad Gimbel said that Nelson is one of the best safeties ever to play for BP. When he lines up on defense, Nelson provides an aggressive style that allows him to fill up running lanes and he’s also able use his speed to run with receivers in coverage downfield.
While Nelson has always been a standout on the defensive side of the ball, he’s had his biggest offensive workload of his career this year. Gimbel said Nelson’s production is even a little bitter higher than anticipated this season and it’s hard to take him out of the game.
Even when Nelson isn’t making big plays with the ball, he often draws enough attention to open up rushing lanes for his teammates.
“It’s easy to use him on offense. We’ve got to use him on offense,” Gimbel said. “The hard thing is not to use him too much. We have to make sure we keep him fresh so he can do both jobs really well. He creates havoc with what he does.”
When Nelson’s three sips of water aren’t enough to energize him during a game, he turns to BP volunteer assistant coach and former Blossom Eliot Herdina — who played football for Gustavus University.
Herdina, who graduated from BP in 2008, played a similar role as Nelson with the Blossoms and he’s been a motivating force on the sideline for BP this season.
“Eliot helps a lot. He’s a really big hype guy,” Nelson said. “After a good play he’ll get really excited and he beats on my helmet. He cheers us all on and he gets everybody really motivated.”
Last season the Blossoms set the bar high when they advanced to the Class A state tournament, but many of the standouts on that team graduated. While some area teams may have expected the Blossoms to drop off this year, it simply hasn’t happened.
BP will be playing for a share of the Mid Southeast West District title when it plays at Kenyon-Wanamingo 7 p.m. Thursday. A win against the Knights (6-1 overall) would also put BP (6-1 overall) in great position to land a top-two seed in the Section 2A tournament, which begins next week.
Nelson wants to play his best football down the stretch of the season and he wants BP to continue to prove its doubters wrong.
“I want to make big plays like Tristen Haberman did in the section title game last year. I want to play my best under the spotlight,” Nelson said. “We’re feeling really good about how we’ve improved this season. A lot of people counted us out this year and I think we’ve changed a lot of minds so far. I hope that we continue surpassing people.”
Nelson is also hoping to move on and play college football after high school. He’s had interest from Division II and Division III schools, but he’s got his sights set on Division III because he wants to play in a smaller community.