The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

From hoops moves to gridiron shin


Throughout Hawkeye defensive end Anthony Nelson’s high-school career at Waukee, Iowa, he was a standout football player.
A two-year starter and team captain as a senior. Playing defensive end both years, he recorded 62 solo tackles, with 29 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, and 24 pass breakups.

With Nelson’s 6-7 height and athleticism, it’s almost as if he belongs on a basketball court.

And, for a while, he did.

He averaged nearly a double-double his junior year and was taking basketball recruiting seriously.

He said playing basketball in high school helps him on the field. His skillset of footwork and using his hands on the court is something he translates to football.

The redshirt freshman was a Class 4A Western Iowa Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the *Des Moines Register* Elite All-State team, to name a few of his accomplishments.

The accolades were there, the stats were there, and the recruiters showed interest. It all came down to deciding which sport to play at the college level.

Although he had success in basketball in high school and thought he would be better playing hoops, it wasn’t what he wanted to stick with.

It took “maturing” and “growing into his body” to fully know the game of football was what he wanted to play.

“I really loved both sports,” Nelson said. “I kind of had an interest in playing either sport. Going through football season, I just had so much fun, and I already had a love for the game, but it was just a deeper passion.

“At the end of the day, it was clear to me that football was what I wanted to do.”

During the summer of 2014, Nelson orally committed to Iowa State; however, that decision changed in January 2015, when he committed to the Hawkeyes.

Being an in-state player is something Nelson believes made his de-commitment so unique. But at the end, it was a decision that was best for him and one that could possibly make him another threat that Iowa has defensively.

“Recruiters understand,” Nelson said. “It’s a process. You’re trying to find the best place for you, and they’re trying to find the best kids for them. At the end of the day, hopefully, you’re going to get paired with who you’re supposed to be with.”

Nelson’s efforts thus far this season show it’s worked out for everyone.

The Urbandale native was listed with a slash next to the names of him and Matt Nelson (no relation), another defense end, following Iowa’s fall camp. Anthony Nelson started the Hawkeyes’ first game against Miami (Ohio) and simply dominated.

He ended the game with 6 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a pass breakup. For his efforts, the Big Ten named him the Freshman of the Week.

“He’s a guy whom we’re excited about,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “He’s not at the physical maturity that he will be when he graduates, but he’s a good football player.”

And even though his experience in basketball has helped him go after quarterbacks, force fumbles, and make tackles, other players on the defensive unit have also been a part of the confidence-booster the redshirt freshman needs.

“He goes out there and works his butt off every day,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “He comes in here determined, and it looks like he does all the small things right so far. He’s a good young guy to be on the field.”

It’s only the third week, and Nelson has made some solid plays so far for the Hawks, but he knows there’s lots of progress to be made.

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