ANDERSON TWP. – Once local product is making a name for himself as a professional football player after years of missed opportunities. Is this a tale of growth and maturity, or proof that phenomenal athleticism trumps character?
“I know that’s always going to be a question because of my past,” 2008 Anderson High School graduate Nick Truesdell said. “That’s what I thought when I was younger. Obviously, it didn’t work out. I learned that quickly. You still have to be a model citizen and still have to do the right things. I’ve definitely grown a lot.”
The 6’7″ wide receiver helped lead the Redskins to the 2007 Division II state championship and earned a football scholarship to the University of Cincinnati. He lasted less than one season with the Bearcats before being dismissed from the team and school.
Seven years later, Truesdell is one of the breakout stars of the Arena Football League, leading the Spokane Shock with 19 touchdowns with five regular season games remaining. He took a long path to get here, but is finally enjoying his first full football season since that magical senior year at Anderson.
“I’m a believer in second chances,” said Shock head coach Andy Olson. “There’s not many people that tall who can run like he can.”
Olson discovered Truesdell in 2014 after seeing some film of the rangy receiver playing in the Indoor Football League. After he was dismissed from the University of Cincinnati, Truesdell played for Grand Rapids Community College. He tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the first game of the season. At that point, with limited NCAA eligibility remaining, he decided that he had a better chance of trying to latch on to a professional team.
He found an agent, attended Cincinnati Bengals camp, and earned a tryout with the Tennessee Titans. He learned that size and speed can only take a football player so far.
“I just wasn’t ready,” Truesdell said. “I kind of wish I would have gone back and got some more college experience under my belt.”
He spent a year training then received a call from the Colorado Ice of the IFL. His play in that league with the Bemidji Axemen earned him an invitation to Green Bay Packers camp. That one week of experience gave Truesdell exposure and showed him how much he still needed to learn. Shortly thereafter, he received a call from Olson and played the final eight games of the Shock’s 2014 season. This year, a hamstring injury slowed his start but he has quickly regained his form and continued to develop.
“To get to the next level, I have to show that I’m a complete team player,” Truesdell said. “They want to see how coachable you are, how willing you are to learn, and how much more potential you still have. It’s not all just about athletic ability, which is what I used to think.”
“I know other coaches are calling my coaches and asking what type of guy I am in the community, if I’m putting extra work in after practice. They’re watching how I’m doing on every play, not just how many catches I make or touchdowns I score. I have to try to be as perfect as I can be every day and every game.”
Truesdell stayed in Spokane over the offseason, showing his commitment to the organization and a focus on moving forward. Staying out of trouble and proving his maturity is still a daily goal. He knows that the call from a team at the next level could come at any moment. He returned to Anderson on the Shock’s bye week, but stayed low key. He was reminded of the 2007 state championship when he saw a team photo at Big Apple Bagels.
“I think if I were to still be here, I’d be the same way I am now,” he said. “I still would have grown, but it’s definitely easier when you’re not around all your high school and college friends.”
Olson likes what he has seen on and off the field from his talented wide receiver. When he is not double-teamed, Truesdell is a nightmare matchup for opposing defensive backs. Few players at any level have his combination of size and speed.
“Physically, he’s a pretty dominant athlete who just needs some molding,” said Olson. “He has so much potential and I really like his personality. He’s the kind of kid you want to keep around and help grow.”
He is still just 25 years old. He has been humbled by his failures and poor decision-making. He knows that he still has a lot to learn and that the mental strength of his game must catch up to the physical. He knows that everyone who remembers his success at Anderson most likely also remembers how he squandered his college scholarship. He is happy with the success and stability that he has found in Spokane.
“It’s been awhile since I’ve been this excited about football,” Truesdell said. “I can be honest now and say that the past is in my past because I am on the right path.”