It’s hard to imagine a Galileo football team in recent years without a Nelson on the field.
Quarterback Dylan Nelson and running back Quincy Nelson (no relation) led the Lions to an Academic Athletic Association title in 2009, and Quincy began 2010 on a record-breaking pace before an injury sidelined him midway through the season.
But another Nelson has emerged.
Kyle, the brother of Dylan (who was named AAA Player of the Year in that 2009 season), will likely be the starting quarterback for the Lions as a sophomore this season, heading a youth movement on Francisco Street.
“It’s starting to get fun, and I’m going to try to help the team the best I can,” Kyle Nelson said. “[Dylan] was great and he teaches me everything he knows, so hopefully I get to be as good as he was.”
At first glance, Kyle Nelson brings thoughts of Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum more than the common perception of a varsity quarterback, with a skinny frame and long, dark locks of hair that dip well past his shoulders.
Still, the Galileo coaching staff is banking on his pedigree, even though he only shared starting duties on the junior varsity team last season.
“There were games where he did start, but he split time,” said third-year Galileo coach Mark Huynh. “But he has definitely worked hard in the offseason; now it’s make-or-break.”
Nelson won’t be the only sophomore in the backfield, however, as fellow underclassmen Ronzel Fox and Dontell Jackson will be key cogs in the Galileo attack.
Fox, the only freshman on last season’s varsity, will be the first option in the Lions’ versatile option attack at fullback, while Jackson will likely be in a three-headed rotation at running back.
Both players will also start on defense, with Jackson at cornerback and Fox at middle linebacker. After the injury of senior captain Max Malloy early in the 2010 season, Fox stepped in as a freshman and was a playmaker, tallying 34 tackles in three games.
“We’re a young team and nobody expects us to be good, but we’re working hard to change that,” Fox said. “As a freshman, I was kinda scared because everyone had more experience than me, but once you get the feel of it, it comes easy.”
Huynh identifies Fox as an impact player on both sides of the ball and has seen the results early in summer practice, but wants to see others meet his intensity.
“In practice, Fox is running people over,” Huynh said. “It’s got to get to the point where these guys feel like, ‘I don’t care. He can run me over, but I’m going to go get him.’ Everybody needs to do that.”
While the Lions will open their season officially on Sept. 2 against Millbrae, it’s their scrimmage against St. Ignatius a week before the opener that is garnering significant attention.
In the current climate of competition, a AAA school playing a West Catholic Athletic League school is not common practice, but Huynh sees it as an opportunity.
“The fact that we’re scrimmaging them and it’s in The City … there’s a feeling that it’s our city and for once we get to do something with each other,” Huynh said. “The other thing is, we know SI is tough and we need to be ready to play and not come in thinking it’s just a practice, because SI will be ready to play. It’s a good chance to see how tough we can be.”
While filling the holes left by 21 graduated seniors from last season is at the forefront of his concerns, Huynh continues to keep things in perspective.
“We always want to compete, but if it doesn’t go well, we want these kids to understand that it’s a process,” Huynh said. “If it does go well, at the same time, it’s still a process. It’s our third season here and we’re building something.”
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