Nolan Milius is being recruited as a Division I college football tight end.
The Lincoln Southwest 6-foot-4, 215-pound junior has been invited for gameday visits to Wyoming and South Dakota State, and is now starting to get recruiting attention from North Dakota State.
The way he’s started the season at defensive end, however, may have schools looking at him in a completely different light. It’s also flipped his preference as well.
“I’ll definitely be going to camps next summer as a defensive end,” Milius said. “I’ve done really well defensively this season and I’m starting to see that it’s my stronger suit.”
In five games this season, Milius has 38 tackles, 10 of which have been behind the line of scrimmage and three sacks. He’s also recovered two fumbles and caused two fumbles.
He had a string of three straight games of 11 tackles each against Lincoln East, Elkhorn and North Platte for the Silver Hawks (4-2).
Opponents have discovered that running away from 6-5, 240-pound senior standout Dane Gebers (31 tackles, seven for losses) at the other defensive end spot is not a productive strategy, not with the rapid progress Milius has shown.
Milius is working to add the 20 or 25 pounds necessary to play the position at the next level. What he possesses now, however, is what Division I coaches crave — speed and athleticism.
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He’s a three-sport athlete who does basketball in the winter and track in the spring, when he runs the 200-meter dash and the 400. Milius said both of those sports contribute to his quickness, although he says he may need to put track on the back burner this coming spring to focus on getting into the weight room and packing on some muscular pounds.
“I think basketball helps me read better as a defender on the football field,” said Milius, who has five catches for 47 yards from his tight end spot. “Basketball is physical, and you have to be able to move guys out occasionally. But it also definitely helps me be quicker than most of the big linemen, and that’s how I have to beat them.”
Southwest coach Andrew Sherman said it’s a luxury having bookends like Gebers and Milius.
“Those two complement each other really well,” Sherman said. “Nolan is long and he’s strong, and he’s becoming a really good football player. He’s kind of thin, but he’s stronger than he looks. In our 10-meter dash testing, he’s one of the team’s fastest guys, so he’s extremely quick off the ball and hard for bigger offensive linemen to block.”
The Silver Hawks face a critical stretch the next two weeks. They play at No. 9 Kearney (4-2) on Friday in a game that will decide the District 3 title. On Oct. 18, Southwest will host No. 7 Grand Island, which takes a 6-0 record into its home clash Friday with No. 2 Millard West, also 6-0.
Southwest won both of these games a year ago, upsetting the 2018 state runner-up Islanders on the road.
“These games are big, and the one Friday is a playoff make-or-break,” Milius said. “These are going to be a true test of how good our team is.”