My Playing Career

I am originally from Newton, IA.  I grew up playing any sport I could.  I started playing YMCA soccer at 5 years old, flag football and basketball at 9.  I also started tee ball at 5 and baseball was always my favorite sport.  For soccer, I got involved with NASA, the Newton Area Soccer Association, from its begining.  My dad was one of the early coaches and was on their board.  Once there was more than one team, I left the Eagles to start the Rockets.  We were pretty successful and went on to win the Iowa Games.  Which was a pretty big deal when club soccer was just getting started in Iowa.  We competed agains the Iowa Uniteds and other select teams from the area, but didn’t go to the same regional tournaments they did.

Once school associated sports started in middle school, I played football, basketball and track.  Soccer and baseball weren’t associated with the school until high school.  In track I threw the shot and discus and ran a few shorter races.  I was never much of a distance guy.  Middle School football also meant the first year of pads for us.  Everyone had played YMCA flag football moved on to 1 padded middle school team that played 3 or 4 games in 7th grade and 6-8 in 8th grade.  I was always a heavyweight and played running back.  In baseball we were at the Babe Ruth level by that time.  I pitched and played basically any position but catcher.  I did try it once, but spent most of my time at short stop or 3rd base.  Our club soccer team was reaching its final years before high school and we peaked competitively around this time as well.  Most of the time I played center midfielder, but was able to help where ever needed.

By the time high school sports started Newton Football was the program to be in.  We were very competitve at the varsity level.  The school was one of the smaller ones in 4A, the largest class in Iowa.  We competed in the newly created, Central Iowa Metro League, Iowa Division, against West Des Moines Valley, Ames, Marshalltown, Fort Dodge and Mason City.  There was also a Central and Metro division that consisted of another 12 schools that rounded out the CIML.  The football stadium was the place to be on Friday nights.  Everyone in town crowded into the stands.  You had to have your name on a list for years to get season tickets in the home grandstand.  Lines formed overnight to watch us play in the play offs.  I forget the exact number, but we made the playoffs something like 27 years straight.  If I remember right it was the 2nd longest running streak at the time.  I was a quarterback until my senior year.  Those of you that know me are either saying, “What!?, you mean the guy that throws the ball?” or you are the ones that know I’m kinda proud of that fact.  Our high school didn’t throw much at all, even though my arm was one of my strengths.  The coaches decided early that another quarterback my age was their starter, so as a freshman I went both ways, starting at Linebacker and backing up at QB.  Then as a Sophomore we split time on the Sophomore team and he dressed Varsity as the backup.  As a Junior I was the official signal caller and Varsity backup.  Before my Senior year, the coaches decided to move me to Defensive line to get me on the field.  My Senior year ended with a loss to the eventual state champion, Ankeny Hawks.  We had defeated them 2 weeks before, but lost the rematch.  High school also brought along the first year of 1 team for soccer and baseball.  My freshman year was the first year of high school soccer in Newton.  It was played in the Spring, so the upper classmen that had ran track the previous year were allowed to do both, but as freshman we had to choose.  I went with soccer.  We were competitive, but it broke up our NASA team that had played together for almost 5 years with 1 coach.  We made state in soccer my sophomore year.  Baseball and basketball were a different story when it came to our records.  I would guess that the football team won more games than we did in varsity basketball and baseball combined and there are about 5 times as many games in those sports.  Don’t get me wrong, we still had fun and had the ability to play close with all teams and a chance to win with most teams we played.  I played varsity as a sophomore in baseball and even got the chance to start pitching a couple games.  Mostly I played outfield or 3rd base.  Basketball wasn’t my best sport, I was a guard due to my height.  I didn’t have bad ball control, and I thought I was a great shooter, but I guess the coaches didn’t agree.  We were one of the more competitive conferences in the state at all sports and I got the chance to play against many future professional athletes.  Maybe someday I’ll round up their names for a “Where are they now post”.  I did finish all 4 years of those 4 sports.  I think I finished with 7 varsity letters.  Honorable mention all conference in football my senior year, and 6 academic all-conference awards.

My senior year of high school I decided to attend Simpson College to play Football and Baseball.  Like I said before, I enjoyed baseball more, but I had the size and ability to make me a better football player.  My high school baseball coaches were Simpson legends and played for Coach Williams my football coach for my first 4 seasons at Simpson, so knew quite a bit about him coming into the season. I lasted through the first 2 and a half weeks of 2-a-days before breaking my foot, causing me to be sidelined for the next 8 weeks and giving me a medical hardship for my first year.  It happened in the preseason scrimmage, making a cut.  This was my first major sports injury.  I had sat our for a few practices from illness, but never missed a game due to an injury.  It was hard to attend practice and watch that season, but it gave me another year to come back and play football so it worked out.  My first year we were preseason number 1 in the nation.  Coming off 2 years of undefeated regular seasons, and a semi-finals loss.  I was part of a large recruiting class to play defensive tackle, in their 4-3 defense.  I was a little under sized for them, but put on about 40-50 pounds in the off season from training.  It was mostly good weight.  Dont’ get me wrong, I enjoyed having cooked meals whenever I was hungry at the cafeteria, but I spent a lot of time in the weight room.  While playing baseball in the spring.  That football season we were 7-3, which was much worse than expected. I had healed up by the end of the football season, but stayed out to keep my eligibility.  Then started playing baseball in the Spring.  The baseball team was also pretty competitive and well coached.  I played JV until I was a Senior at pretty much all positions.  I know I didn’t play any catcher, and I doubt I played any short stop or 2nd base those years, but I remember playing outfield, 3rd base, 1st base, then pitching once.  That was a pretty eventful day, I think I gave up 17 runs in less than 1 inning.  I didn’t have the best college ERA, even though it was against one of the best Junior Colleges in the nation and probably had many eventual D-1 players.  My junior year of baseball I traveled and my senior year I started at DH.  I also played a little 1st Base and lettered.  I had a lot of fun, and learned a lot from playing college baseball, I played with some great guys that are now baseball coaches at the college and high school level.  I also go the chance to be coached by some great coaches and trained with some professional players.

College football at Simpson was the highlight of my playing career.  I moved from playing defensive tackle to defensive end by the time I was a 5th year senior.  We played about every different defense.  Over the 5 years I had 4 different defensive line coaches, 3 different defensive coordinators and 2 different head coaches.  Our best year was 7-3, worst was 6-4 I think.  We never beat Central or Wartburg while i was playing. Central was our big rival and Wartburg, Central, Coe and us were probably the top teams.  Occasionally Buena Vista, Loras, Luther, or Cornell would have a good year.  The rest of the conference consisted of Upper Iowa & William Penn (both of which are either D-2 or NAIA now, and Dubuque.  I ended up getting 3 letters from football.  Those were some great years, I’m sure I’ll have more stories to share from those days.  I’ll have to have a whole catagory of stories to share about Coach Williams.  He was a great guy, with a lot of charisma and a dry sense of humor, not to mention a very successful football coach.

I went on to play a little semi-pro baseball, but most of my playing is in recreation leagues.  From racquetball to team sports such as dodge ball, indoor soccer, slow pitch softball, basketball, Iowa games soccer, 5 mile runs, and even wining a decathlon at a USATF meet.

from Coach Carson

Posted on: August 15, 2011Nolan Carson