Matt Nelson is a unique and versatile prospect.
“First of all, he’s a little over 6-8, 245, 250, for being that big of a kid, he can run and move real well,” Xavier High School head coach Duane Schulte said of the 2014 athlete from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
“He’s got great hands, great hand-eye coordination. He was getting recruited for some Division-I basketball stuff too. He’s a talented athlete.”
Nelson already has a handful offers, including ones from Iowa, Iowa State, Nebraska, Stanford, Arkansas and San Diego State. Schulte uses him in a variety of ways.
“We like to start him down as a tight end in a three-point stance,” the coach said. “We’ll run some old-fashioned football, off-tackle type plays and he’ll block. Then we’ll send him out wide too and try to get him the ball that way, especially down near the goal line.
“We were state runner-ups this year in 4A, which is the largest class in Iowa, and he was the only kid who went both ways. Defensively, he plays defensive end and did great out there too.”
It’s easy to see how Nelson’s frame can help him as a red-zone target, but it also serves him well as a blocker and a defender.
“He still has a great stance,” said Schulte. “He’s low to the ground, explodes off and uses his hands real well both offensively and defensively. Not only does he use his hands catching the ball, he can use them to get inside and block and he’ll drive his feet. He’s an old-fashioned football player. He’s not just some spread offense, prima donna guy, but we do spread him out when we want to.
“The other thing that makes him so good is that he’s really smart. He’s one of the smartest kids we’ve got in the school. We’re a Catholic school with really high academic standards and he’s one of the best students we have.”
At this point, there’s no consensus as to his position at the next level.
“I’ve heard from a lot of Division-I schools,” Schulte said. “Some people are saying offense, some are saying defense. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder it seems like.”
Schulte recalls Nelson being a standout all of the way back to middle school.
“I remember Matt when he came to our camp in sixth or seventh grade,” he said. “He used his hands tremendously back then too. I just kept praying that he’d stick with football. He’s a really good basketball player too. We encourage our guys to play all sports, which he does. He did track for a while and runs really well. I just remember him being athletic.”
Notre Dame is eager to check out Nelson, who will visit South Bend on Wednesday, after Schulte contacted Irish assistant Bob Elliott to let him know about his versatile standout.
“I’ve known Coach Elliott from way back in the mid-90s,” Schulte said. “When he was at Iowa State, he recruited one of my former players.
“He said he’d check it out, watch the film and get back to me and that’s what he did. They’re very interested. They watched the film and want to see him in person. I hope that things go good and both sides are excited to see each other.”
Schulte has been impressed, but not surprised, with the way Nelson’s handled the process.
“He’s a humble kid. He’s not letting any of this stuff go to his head. He’s a team player first. He could have dominated on the basketball court this year, but it’s almost like he’s looking for assists too much when he could have just scored himself. He’s a team-first guy.”