At the end of his sophomore year, Ryan Nesbitt knew he desperately wanted to get on the field wearing a varsity uniform but wasn’t quite sure how that would ever happen.
Lacking the blazing speed of a cornerback or the brute strength of a middle linebacker, Nesbitt needed to find some other way to earn a starting spot. He sought out the nearest advicehe could.
“I told him if you tackle, there’s always going to be spot for you,” Hickman coach and Ryan’s father, Gregg Nesbitt said.
That’s exactly what Ryan did last season at free safety, 126 times. According to fellow senior defensive back Cedric Alvis, Nesbitt makes up for any physical shortcoming on the field with his preparation off the field.
“Ryan studies the game,” Alvis said. “That’s a similarity between him and his father. Ryan will watch film for hours and hours during the week, and coach Nesbitt prides himself on watching a ton of film on every opponent.”
Coach Nesbitt said his first coaching connection with Ryan began when he stepped in as a varsity starter as a junior. Despite exceeding some expectations last season as the Kewpies’ leading tackler, Ryan would have been hard pressed to exceed his coach’s.
“I’ve been coaching so long, I don’t even see my kid (on the field). You just see another player,” coach Nesbitt said. “But there’s a negative in that my expectations are higher with my own kid. My perception is that I’ve been a lot harder on Ryan than other players I’ve coached.”
Through two games this year, Nesbitt again finds himself around the football with 18 tackles – second behind only junior Aaron Cawlfield’s 22 stops. Nesbitt, however, takes little credit for the numbers he has put up.
“The free safety position is predicated around the linebackers, and I’ve been blessed to have great linebackers in front of me,” Nesbitt said. “It make’s it so easy to read plays with the linebackers that we have.”
Coming into tonight’s first road game for the Kewpies (1-1) at 7 against Parkway South, Nesbitt, Alvis and the rest of the secondary are holding a grudge from last year’s 37-19 win against the Patriots. Despite the outcome, Parkway South threw for around 300 yards against what was then a younger secondary.
“The secondary is better than it has been in the last couple of years, not necessarily because of talent, but because of the bond that we have from last year,” Alvis said. “It gives us a lot more confidence going into (tonight’s) game.”
Even though tonight’s match up is Hickman’s first away from its home field, coach Nesbitt said it won’t change how his team will prepare. Nesbitt said the two-hour bus ride to St. Louis should help his team focus more than before a home game.
Parkway South (1-1) returns 11 starters from last season, the most coach Tom Dailey has ever had return. The Patriots are led by Phillip Schwartz who converted to quarterback after starting as a running back last season. Dailey said his offense will primarily be running Schwartz out of the shotgun formation mixing in the run and the pass.
“They can score from anywhere on the field,” Nesbitt said. “They put up 59 points last week (against Northwest House Springs), so they must be doing something right on offense.”
Nesbitt said he wants to use this game in the same way he did the 14-7 loss to Rockhurst last Friday: a way to gauge his team’s improvement.
“Last week (against Rockhurst) was a barometer for the west side,” Nesbitt said. “We think this game will give us a good barometer for the east side.”