Breaking the Football Mold

Story by Allexis Gonzalez

McKay Nelson, a lanky 16 year old, has been playing for the Riverton High School football team for the last three years. This stalky teenager, however, isn’t your quintessential football player. Mitch Nelson, McKay’ Nelson’s older brother, said that McKay Nelson is breaking the stereotypical football mold because, “He actually cares about his grades and he is never satisfied with the effort he gives, which makes him stay humble and makes him work like a beast not only in the gym, but in the classroom and even at home.”

McKay says that his driving force behind playing linebacker on defense for Riverton is for the pure love of the sport. “High school football is a lot of hard work and dedication that teaches you important lessons with a lot of fun along the way,” McKay Nelson said. Coach Brent Hawkins said that unlike a lot of the other players on the team, McKay Nelson goes the extra mile. He never has to worry about the 3.9-GPA student keeping his grades up.

McKay’s time on the team, however, hasn’t been all easy. The 16-year-old started playing junior varsity as a freshman and had a tough time breaking into varsity. It wasn’t until this season that McKay made the cut for varsity and the teenager says even still he was side lined to the junior varsity games for all but one of the season’s games.

According to the NCAA, of the nearly 8 million students who participate in high school sports, only 460,000 will compete at NCAA school and even fewer make it to be pro athletes. McKay Nelson is fully aware of these statistics and said that, “Football has never been my end goal. It’s just been a way to do something I enjoy while I’m in high school.”

“He really is quite a good little football player, but I’ll be honest, he’s not going to college with this or anything like that with his field-skills alone. He is one of those kids who use football as a life coach to teach him to be disciplined and brave and to do hard things and to balance or control emotion and anger –that’s what football is for him,” Mitch Nelson said.

McKay says that he plans on taking the life skills he’s learning from participating on Riverton’s football team and put them toward his future college studies and his plans to serve a two-year mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after high school.