Evan Nelson finally earned a chance to start at quarterback last season before everything changed on one play. Now he opens up about the struggles of his 2015 season.
By Jessica SHUMATE, intern
It was Oct. 30 at Burroughs High School’s brightly lit field. Before the game, Falcon senior Evan Nelson was hidden away in the locker room, focused on how he and the team could defeat Burroughs, one of the school’s biggest competitors of the season. What never crossed his mind was how the outcome of this game was going to affect the rest of his high school football career.
The Falcons were running a screen play when quarterback Nelson made a pass down the field. He barely had time to see the end of the play before an opponent tackled him to the turf, landing hard on his shoulder.
Seven years prior, Evan had just begun his football career playing for a flag football league in Sunland along with a handful of his current teammates. For four years, he, along with players like Brian Gadsby and Ben Valdez, practiced together before becoming Falcons.
“I played on the all-star teams with Benny and, in our last year together in eighth grade, he threw me the game winning touchdown in the last few minutes of our championship game against these high school freshmen,” he said. “We ended up winning the tournament. It’s pretty funny how five years ago he was throwing me touchdowns and this year I was throwing them to him.”
Creating close friendships on the field from a young age helped him transition into the competitive world of high school football. It wasn’t until his junior year that he got his chance to play with the varsity team. Nelson spent the preseason being switched back and forth from JV to varsity. After practicing all summer with varsity, he was sent back down to JV for five games.
“I try and pretend that whole JV thing didn’t happen because I didn’t like that,” he said with a smile.
He recalled practicing with Gadsby, who lit up the scoreboard in his two years as varsity quarterback, and realized the standards set for the program.
“I thought I had done well, but I noticed how much harder [Gadsby] threw the ball and how quick his release was,” he said.
After getting a taste of playing with the best, he devoted the majority of his time to training outside of practice in order to secure a spot on the team. The hard work paid off, and he was permanently back on varsity, just in time for the team to begin its journey to the CIF championship in 2014.
After training for another summer with close teammates like Daniel Baek, he had yet to start a varsity game in 2015. It wasn’t until mid-season when Evan was called in to start against Glendale. He remembered it being 24 hours before the game when his coach gave him the news.
“I always told myself, ‘Maybe I’ll start next week,’” he recalled. “The Thursday before we played Glendale, Coach Hudson Gossard told me I’m playing tomorrow and it was all really sudden.” From that moment, he became CV’s starting quarterback, moving former quarterback junior Tyler Hill to his defensive spot as safety. In the four games that he played, Evan was able to complete 800 passing yards with nine touchdowns.
All his hard work came to an end that night at Burroughs. After landing on his shoulder, a sharp pain ran through the right side of his arm. Initially he assumed it was a “stinger,” a nerve injury, but knew something was severely wrong when he couldn’t raise his hand to receive the snap. After the team hustled to the sidelines for examination, it was clear that he had broken his left clavicle.
“That night I went to the hospital they told me it was a clean break, I didn’t need surgery and I’d be back in four weeks. I ended up having to need surgery and I woke up from the procedure with the news that I had broken two ribs as well. Everything just kept getting worse.”
Unfortunately for Nelson, he was unable to return to the field on time and CV’s varsity football team lost against Cathedral in the first round of the CIF playoffs.
“After the injury I didn’t know how to participate with the team,” he said. “I would sit through practices and meetings and my teammates would tell me that they’re waiting for me to get back in the game. It helped but I was still pretty lost.”
Today Evan continues his physical therapy to train not only for his final volleyball season but with the hope of being recruited for college football. At the moment he is interested in multiple schools including Linfield College, Redlands and Crown College.
“I’m excited to see how I’ll turn out,” he said. “Everyone’s only seen me play four games so now I have a lot to prove.”