For Williams Field offensive tackle and Oklahoma commit Noah Nelson, this week’s film review on upcoming opponent Campo Verde brought back some bad memories.
“We were giving Noah a hard time, I said ‘Noah this might be the worst game you played in your whole career’ and he was like ‘Coach it was’,” Williams Field head coach Steve Campbell said. “He played bad.
“Mason (Bugg) was giving him a hard time like, ‘Wow look at that hit you gave up on the quarterback’ and I’ll tell him ‘Mason, you haven’t been hit like that at all’ and he says ‘No, because I have this year’s Noah, not last year’s Noah.’”
Nelson is one of three offensive linemen that the Blackhawks have who will be playing Division 1 football next year. Offensive guard Cooper Darling is committed to Oregon State, and offensive tackle Andrew Garcia is uncommitted, but has offers from several programs.
The kind of growth that is revealed in film sessions of the big guys up front developing from just players with size, to players who dominate is the most rewarding for Campbell to see, he said.
“It’s what you hope to happen when they’re just these big ‘ole goofy sophomores,” Campbell said. “Now they’re big and athletic and performing at a high level.”
Nelson is ranked as the No. 36 offensive tackle in the country and No. 480 overall by 247Sports.
The 6’8” 300 pound lineman had offers from Michigan, UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona, but committed to Oklahoma in May.
Excited for the next chapter of my life!!!
BOOMER SOONER!!! 🌹🔥 pic.twitter.com/uPQMMdXkKL
— Noah Nelson (@NoahNelson70) May 14, 2019
“Their accomplishments are bigger than a lot of schools that I have seen,” Nelson said of his commitment to Oklahoma. “A lot of schools can talk about their past, but that’s not really what they’re doing now. Oklahoma being there when they had the four offensive linemen go in to the (NFL) Draft that was a big testament to what they can do.”
Nelson has developed exponentially this season and is one of the Blackhawks’ most committed players, Campbell said.
“He had a torn labrum and played through it last year,” Campbell said. “He takes pride in that ‘in my four year career here I have not missed practice for anything’ type thing. We actually did have to hold him out of a practice this year and it hit him hard.”
Nelson was kept out of practice and missed Williams Field’s week five game against Casteel because of violating an AIA rule for helping to train an athlete from another school back in September.
Williams Field and Nelson appealed the case and he was reinstated.
For Nelson, Darling and Garcia, having some friendly competition has been a key part of each athlete’s growth.
The three enjoy pushing each other and creating little competitions to see who can have the most pancakes or shovels to help each other live up to their potential.
“We’re constantly competing against each other but we’re also cheering each other on to make sure everybody is being the best they can be so we can all get it done up front and better the team to get where we need to be,” Nelson said.
BACK TO HIS ROOTS
Darling is a native of Oregon. His family moved from the Beaver State to Arizona back in 2008.
A 6’5” 300 pound lineman, Darling had offers from NAU, Arizona State, Idaho and San Diego State, but ultimately was drawn back home to his roots and Oregon State.
“When I was younger, going to the games and always dreaming about putting on one of those jerseys and playing in Reser Stadium, it meant a lot once I made the decision to commit,” Darling said. “There’s still a lot of room for improvement (with Oregon State) and that’s what they’re doing right now. They’re rebuilding and that was really attractive to me to go there and help them with that.”
— Cooper Darling (@cooperdarling55) May 30, 2019
Darling and Nelson have both assumed leadership roles in their senior seasons with the Blackhawks. While both lead by example first, Darling is more of a vocal leader than Nelson, Campbell said.
“Both of them are the epitome of a leader,” Campbell said “They do first. They hold themselves to a standard and they take care of their business and they take care of what they need to before they try to lead others. There are a lot of kids who want to be leaders, but yet, they don’t take care of their own business. (Cooper and Noah) understand to take care of yourself first and then they can lead others.”
Being a leader is something Darling takes pride in as a member of the Williams Field program.
“Help people along the way, don’t just see someone failing and leave it there, take them with you even if you have to go down to help them out, take them along with you,” Darling said.
PATIENCE IS KEY
The recruiting process for the Blackhawks’ big men has been different for each. Nelson’s recruitment happened quickly, while Darling’s took a little longer to blow up and Garcia’s has been slower.
“The way the process has played out like it has, I think that helps Andrew,” Campbell said. “He knows his process and that was just an example of how the process is going to be different for every body.”
Garcia has talked with San Diego State, New Mexico State, NAU, UNC and Northern Colorado. He currently has offers from NAU, UNC and New Mexico State.
— Andrew Garcia (@axgarcia0024) September 2, 2019
The key for Garcia throughout his recruitment journey has been to just keep doing what he has been and stay humble, he said.
Nelson and Darling have also been giving him advice throughout on what he should be looking for.
“They help me out a lot,” Garcia said. “(With) seeing what to look for in a college and see what to look for with your position and coaches.”
As signing day gets closer, Garcia could see more offers come through as he is likely on many coaches recruiting boards. For now, he’s continuing to stay patient and enjoy the process.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Garcia said. “(I’m) staying humble and keep everything to yourself and keep working hard.”
You can catch the action LIVE on Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at 7:00pm PT/10:00pm ET on Cox (Ch. 1004 PHX, Ch. 1007 Tucson) or at yurview.com/live.