NCAA Division I FCS offers start to pour in for mammoth York High lineman

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
York High junior lineman Joden Nelson poses for a photo. After being named a York-Adams League Division I second team all-star in 2020, Nelson has received five NCAA Division I scholarship offers.
  • York High oiffensive lineman Joden Nelson now has five NCAA Division I scholarship offers.
  • All five offers are from schools playing on the Football Championship Subdivision level.
  • Nelson is 6 feet, 4 inches, and 280 pounds. He was a York-Adams D-I second-team all-star in 2020.

Like a lot of young football players, Joden Nelson grew up with a goal to play at the NCAA Division I level.

Until last August, however, it seemed like just a dream.

The York High junior lineman was about to begin his first season with the Bearcats, after he transferred from West York, when he was followed on Twitter by a college coach.

Nelson was grateful for the interest from the NCAA Division III coach — as he is each time a program reaches out to him. That list of schools after him grew substantially in the past week, when Nelson added four NCAA D-I offers, all since Friday.

Now, his dreams appear set to become a reality.

“It was such a surreal feeling,” Nelson said. “Growing up, I saw people around me going to get to play at the next level and get to fulfill their dreams of playing Division I football and now being able to be in that position is just crazy to me. Even just to be in a position to have any coach follow me or any coach take me into consideration, it was just mind blowing. I never thought I'd be able to be in this position at such a young age.”

Switching focus from lacrosse to football: The Bearcats’ junior originally loved lacrosse, but gave it up before high school to focus on football.

Despite his love for lacrosse, Nelson took the advice of those around him, who suggested his size would give him more opportunities on the gridiron.

"There are not many people in this world that are 6-feet, 4-inches, 280 pounds that are 17 years old, with a 77-inch wingspan and are athletic,” York High football coach Russ Stoner said, talking about Nelson.

Stoner added that Nelson’s academic profile and work ethic have checked all the boxes for the college coaches, and he expects the list of offers to continue to grow. In his first season with York High, Nelson was a York-Adams League Division I second-team all-star offensive lineman for a group that helped running back Jahiem White rush for a league-best 1,332 yards.

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Getting the first Division I offer: Nelson’s first D-I offer came in February from Bucknell University.

Nelson admitted early in the recruiting process he was nervous on calls with coaches and didn’t know what to expect. So, when the coach casually slipped into the conversation they were giving him a full scholarship it shocked Nelson.

“I was taken by surprise my first time on the phone with a coach and he just said: ‘We want to offer you,’” Nelson said. “It just felt like, wow, like it came out of nowhere. It just pops out at you, grabs you and it just opens your eyes like, wow that really just happened.”

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Flurry of interest in the last week: Now a veteran of the recruiting game, Nelson is more comfortable on a video meeting or phone call with coaches, but couldn’t contain his excitement about the flurry of scholarship offers he received over the weekend.

First was Stony Brook University on Friday afternoon. Nelson had a Zoom call with the coach at 11 a.m., and within 15 minutes added his second NCAA D-I offer. After telling his family members, Nelson called Stoner to fill him in, only to find out that another call was coming.

“I called coach Stoner and he said: ‘Congratulations, buddy. Keep your phone open, more coaches are gonna be reaching out today,’” Nelson said. “I remember saying: ‘Are you serious?’”

Stoner was serious.

Nelson had another offer from Elon University later in the day. As he typed out the second Twitter announcement, the significance of the moment set in.

“It really hit me when I was sending the tweets out,” Nelson said. “I was like: 'Wow, I really just got an offer.’ I just got my first offer two months ago and then that's two in five hours and it was just crazy.”

He wasn’t done just yet.

Sunday evening, Bryant University came through with Nelson’s third scholarship offer of the weekend. Then on Wednesday, Nelson added another when Fordham University joined the list of five Football Championship Subdivision programs after the junior.

Giving credit to others: Nelson credited his coaches and former York High lineman, such as Trey Bernstein and Antonio Jones Jr., with helping him during the recruiting process and with offseason workouts.

The former standout Bearcats often return to the program and work out with the younger players, which is something Stoner is proud of.

York High Head Coach Russell Stoner during York-Adams League District 3, Class 6-A championship football action against Central York at Central York High School in Springettsbury Township, Friday, Nov. 6, 2020. Central York would win the game 48-21. Dawn J. Sagert photo

“You can tell that they care about each other and they want everybody to get their own,” Stoner said. “They talk about the academic piece of it. They're proud of what they're doing academically and I think it's impactful, I really, truly do. I think it's impactful for our seventh and eighth graders, the whole way up to the kids that are currently getting recruited that have come through the process already.”

He's come a long way in nine months: Nine months after Nelson was just happy to have any coach interested in him, he now has his choice of which NCAA FCS D-I school to play at for free.

Despite the recent surge in recruiting interest, Nelson remains honored that any team would want him as part of their program.

York High junior lineman Joden Nelson poses for a photo on a visit at Bloomsburg University. Nelson now has five offers from NCAA Division I football programs.

“It just feels great to know that coaches have reached out to me and considered me to be one of the people that they want to offer scholarships,” Nelson said. “Knowing that not everybody gets a scholarship, there's only a limited amount of people they can take, and for me to be in consideration as one of the top guys, it's just crazy, and I’m just blessed to be in that position.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrrose@yorkdispatch.com.