Back in week 9 of the high school football season, Grantsville coach Tony Cloward devised a game plan he felt gave his team the best opportunity at upsetting No. 1 Logan. He wasn't going to let superstar quarterback Riley Nelson win it with his arm, and as a result dropped up to eight guys into pass coverage.

In Nelson's mind, he was thinking, "all right, if that's how you want it," as he proceeded to rush for 275 yards and four touchdowns in a 42-7 victory over Grantsville. "He is the greatest dual threat quarterback I've ever seen," said Logan coach Mike Favero.

Nelson also enjoyed the greatest season in high school football history — nationally or locally — and as a result he's the obvious choice for the 2005 Deseret Morning News Mr. Football award. He is also the Deseret Morning News athlete of the month for November, the first prepster to garner the award, and was recently named Gatorade's Utah Football Player of the Year.

Don't count his coach among those who believe he's getting too much attention. "He deserves all that he receives. His IQ is off the charts," said Favero.

Throughout the season, Nelson would usually sit down with his coaches three times a week to break down game film, and he had a photographic memory — he only needed to be told something once.

Nelson called about 80 percent of Logan's plays this year, the majority from the line of scrimmage, a la Peyton Manning. These weren't your run-of-the-mill down-and-outs that he used to call on the playground. He analyzed what the defense was giving him and then barked out receiver routes and blocking schemes to his teammates.

"I've never seen a quarterback in high school call plays at the line of scrimmage like he does," said Favero. "It takes a very intellectual kid to process all that information. He could be an offensive coordinator next year and be successful."

Instead, Nelson, who doesn't turn 18 until June, will be focusing on his college career next year. His primary interest so far is from Utah State, Utah, BYU and Washington, but don't be surprised if he garners even more interest after coaches see more film on his ability.

At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Nelson was deemed too small by most college football recruiters entering his senior season. His assault on the records books now has coaches thinking otherwise.

Nelson passed for 53 touchdowns this year, while rushing for 31 more. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, his 84 total touchdowns broke the national record of 71 set by T.A. McLendon of Albemarle, N.C., in 2001. His six touchdowns per game is also a new national record.

"My opinion is I don't care how big you are if you're that dominant in high school," said Nelson.

During the month of November alone, which just so happened to encompass the 3A quarterfinals, semifinals and championship game, Nelson recorded 20 total touchdowns for the state champion Grizzlies.

Nelson finished as Utah's record holder in nine different categories: career total TDs (130), career passing TDs (79), season total TDs (84), season passing TDs (53), season completions (277), season passing yards (4,041), season total yards (5,815), single-season completions (38) and single-game TD passes (7).

Will similar production follow Nelson to the Division I level? At Logan, he took most of the snaps in shotgun formation in which he was also the lone player in the backfield. With so many college football teams running a similar spread option offense, in that type of environment, Nelson might be very successful.

"I would never bet against him," said Favero. "I think he would be successful anywhere he goes."


Mr. Football winners over the years

1997 — Morgan Scalley, Highland (Utah)

1998 — David Fiefia, Hunter (Utah State)

1999 — Bo Nagahi, Skyline (Utah)

2000 — Steve Tate, Skyline (Utah)

2001 — Daniel Coats, Northridge (BYU)

2002 — Kyle Brady, Tooele (Utah)

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2003 — Ray Feinga, Hunter (BYU)

2004 — Jason Zundel, Bear River (UVSC baseball)

2005 — Riley Nelson, Logan (undecided)


E-mail: jedward@desnews.com

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