Against the grain
No matter the position, Nealy exemplifies athletic versatility
Published: Friday, October 12, 2012
Updated: Friday, October 12, 2012 02:10
Fighting the odds has always been Spencer Nealy’s forte, a unique quality uncharacteristic of most college athletes, many of which hope for a future payout in professional ball. The senior defensive tackle has consistently met every challenge with a profound sense of determination and an unyielding amount of pure enthusiasm.
When head coach Kevin Sumlin requested Nealy move from his three-year holdout at defensive end to the vaunted tackle position during preseason, the senior didn’t hesitate for a second.
“Spencer Nealy, for him to move from end to inside, just so you know is the craziest thing in the world to go to bed at night thinking ,” Sumlin said. “What kind of guys would sign up for that? Nealy is that kind of guy, and he understands that. He might have a screw loose, but it takes one to do that.”
For Nealy, the position change brought a sense of familiarity to the game. While playing at Reagan High School, Nealy earned San Antonio Area Defensive Player of the Year honors from the hometown Express-News, but at nose guard, not defensive end.
From a recruiting standpoint, many coaches believed Nealy was undersized for an interior defensive position at a Division I program. Using his stellar senior year performance as a boost, the underrated two-star prospect gained the attention of then-A&M head coach Mike Sherman, garnering a ticket to play in College Station.
Four years later, Nealy is holding his own at defensive tackle, a position that is not only widely respected within the Aggies’ new conference, but also revered by NFL scouts as a talent goldmine. Last year alone, two Southeastern Conference defensive tackles were selected in the first round as three more followed over the course of the draft.
Nealy’s quick adjustment and constant production has reflected well on his new coaches and teammates alike, granting the senior the select status as an unspoken leader.
“I liked [the position change] a lot. I feel it’s more of my natural position,” Nealy said. “My role has developed but within the defense, everyone has the same role. We all have to do our jobs to succeed.”
With the combination of his vocal attitude and high-flying passion, “unspoken” stands as a giant understatement. Following the second-string defense shutting down Arkansas during the 58-10 blowout on Sept. 29, Nealy was the first on the field to chest bump, high-five and inspire the backups.
“We need to find about five more guys like that,” Sumlin said. “He’s a great example for our team and does a great job for us. That’s the kind of leadership [A&M needs].”
As the weight of A&M’s schedule begins to bear down upon them, starting this weekend with No. 23 Louisiana Tech, the fiery spirit and challenge-seeking temperament Nealy brings to the table will become invaluable to the program.
“For him to move throughout the defensive line shows how versatile and how talented of a player he is,” said junior defensive end Damontre Moore of his teammate. “To see the younger guys come in and work hard, and the older guys too, everybody’s getting better. It’s a great experience to watch.”