Fresh-faced Nero shows he can play w/ big boys at NAIA college
But don’t let the fresh face fool you.
This kid out of Colony High can play, and he proved that by earning a starting spot at defensive back seven games into the NAIA season.
“Kind of felt like a birthday present since I had just turned 18 the Monday before the game,” Nero told me. “After that I never looked back. There was definitely competition but I wasn’t about to lose something I was working for all year.”
The 5-foot-10 safety registered three tackles and broke up two passes that night against Montana Western. He grabbed his first interception the next game against Southern Oregon. And two games later he had a season-high nine tackles.
There was definitely some on-the-job training, but Nero adjusted.
“Learning to keep up with athletes that are 21, 23 years old was definitely a challenge,” he said. “It was hard at first but the coaching staff spent a lot of time with me and my eye discipline became much better and keeping up became much easier.
“One of the hardest things was [tackling] the running backs – lots of big dudes and even one NFL prospect. But hopefully this offseason I can get my weight up and become the one offensive players are worried about keeping up with.”
Overall, Nero finished ninth on the team with 42 tackles and was one of just three defensive players to have at least one interception and one recovered fumble.
“College football has definitely been the best experience of my life,” he said. “It definitely started off slow since most of the freshmen had been on campus working out most of the summer and I didn’t show up until right before season, so I was pretty far down on the totem pole in coach’s eyes.
“The hardest part for me was getting my footwork better and my eyes disciplined — recognizing offenses and making play calls – but for the most part my confidence has come a long way since I was the safety controlling coverages and blitzes for that side of the field.”