Ryan Nettles waited a long time to get back on the football field. Three years to be exact.
But his perseverance is paying off. The Alabama State quarterback was named a finalist for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in FCS football.
Nettles has completed 59 percent of his passes for 917 yards, while throwing for eight touchdowns against five interceptions. The dual-threat quarterback has also has 110 rushing yards and a touchdown.
It’s been a stellar season for the young man from Evergreen, Alabama. It’s also been a long time coming.
After leading Hillcrest High to a state championship as a junior, Nettles was ready for a big senior year. But adversity struck in the form a torn ACL and meniscus early that season, ending his high school career. He had to pick between Alabama State and Alcorn State, ultimately choosing to stay in his home state.
Nettles said he questioned whether or he wanted to return to the sport.
“It was tough. It was a mental thing. I knew I’d be able to get back on the field, but it was about me getting myself back where I needed to be and even better. I wanted to be better than I was before. “
He credits his mother with helping him mentally prepare to get back on the field, along with his physical therapists. Now he is studying to become one.
“I saw how they helped getting me back together. My mind and my body, they helped with it all. That’s something I want to do to help athletes if they have injuries sort of like mine, I want to help them.”
Alabama State fell to Alabama A&M 38-14 in the Magic City Classic on Saturday. Nettles helped ASU score the game’s first points, but was poked in the eye trying to get in the end zone. He sat out the majority of the game, which turned out to be the end of his spring season.
While the season didn’t end the way Ryan Nettles and ASU would have liked, there’s no question that his future looks very bright.