Offensive lineman Nash Nelson and running back Seth Johnson will both be heading to the University of West Florida by way of St. Cloud High School, but their paths from here to there were different.
Both signed their NCAA Letters of Intent on Wednesday, the second of two National Signing Days.
The Argonauts will be playing just their fourth year of football in 2019, but reached the Division II national championship game in 2017.
Nelson (6-3, 290) and Johnson (5-7, 180) were three-year teammates at St. Cloud before Nelson transferred to Osceola High prior to his senior year. Nelson attended Johnson’s signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon after holding his at OHS in the morning.
Nelson called Wednesday “the ultimate stress reliever.”
“Things were slow back in December, but I wasn’t worried watching other guys sign,” he said. “The past few weeks the calls started coming in and it really started heating up.”
He noted that Valdosta (Ga.) State, another D-II power, offered a scholarship, and UCF gave the chance to come in as a preferred walk-on. While he played tackle at St. Cloud and Osceola, he said the Argonauts’ coaching staff, led by Head Coach Pete Shinnick, will likely use him at guard or center.
“I like that actually, you get to pull and lead around and stuff,” Nelson said.
He said he was “thankful” to be part of a Kowboys team that went 9-2, won a district title and went to the playoffs.
“It was awesome being here. It was different, going from a spread offense to a version of the Wing-T, but it was fun,” Nelson said. “I told the running backs to trust me and trust the line. In the summer we developed a bond, plus most of the guys I knew from playing Pop Warner and stuff.”
Nelson said he plans to major in nursing.
Johnson spent four years in the Bulldogs’ varsity backfield, but became known as a “Weapon X”, especially this year. He carried for 924 yards and seven touchdowns, but led the county in catches and receiving yards (56 for 842, with 7 TDs) and scored 15 touchdowns overall. He was the county’s second-leading receiver in 2017.
And, he did it for St. Cloud. While teammates transferred to other programs, he stayed to lead a team that debuted a new quarterback in 2018 and was young in a lot of spots. The Bulldogs lost their first six games before rebounding to finish 4-6.
“I knew that I couldn’t give up on my team,” said Johnson, who will major in exercise science at UWF. “We made it the best season we could. We won our last four games. I wish the season could have gone longer.”
St. Cloud Coach Bryan Smart said as an example of “what a St. Cloud Bulldog is,” Johnson will be missed in maroon and gold.
“I’ve gotten to coach a lot of great kids here, but you don’t find too many like him,” Smart said. “These days you’re lucky to find a kid who loves football like him. It’s easy to take the easy way out. He was pulled in a lot of directions, which he should because he’s that good. UWF is getting an unbelievable citizen and I can’t wait to go up and watch him play.”
Johnson said the Argonauts began recruiting him as a junior, and he chose them over Georgetown and the Naval Academy, but the pull to stay in Florida — even if Pensacola is an eight-hour drive from Osceola County — led him to UWF, where he visited last month.
While he said he’ll be counted on out of the backfield up in Pensacola, he’s ready to play anywhere and do anything asked.
“I could do anything. Need me to rush, receive, return kicks, I’m ready,” he said. “I’m just glad to have this process over with, it’s stressful.”