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GAC's Nelson plays bigger than his 5-foot-5 stature

Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian running back Lavondre Nelson will play in the Gwinnett all-star football game on December 17th.

Staff Photo: John Bohn Greater Atlanta Christian running back Lavondre Nelson will play in the Gwinnett all-star football game on December 17th.

He has 4.3-second speed, more than 1,000 yards of total offense and a 1,930 SAT.

To college coaches, the Greater Atlanta Christian football player is an ideal recruit.

Then you get to his size of 5-foot-5, 165 pounds.

It's not the typical stature for a running back at the college level. That's been the biggest drawback for Nelson.

"That's what they say. It doesn't matter to me, he can play," GAC head coach Tim Cokely said.

Nelson is out to prove he can play with the big boys. He'll be one of the running backs in Saturday's Rivalries of Gwinnett All-Star game, a showcase of the county's top senior players.

"I don't want to play in this all-star game just for colleges," Nelson said. "I'm just playing for fun. It's a last hoorah kind of thing."

Nelson was one of the county's top running backs this season, rushing for 1,055 yards and 12 touchdowns. His 12 yards per carry were the best in the county.

"He's a home-run hitter," Cokely said. "He was batting clean up for us when I didn't call the right play. When he had the ball we had the chance to be successful."

Nelson helped lead GAC to an 8-2 record and back-to-back winning seasons. The Spartans were just one game shy of making the playoffs. His best game from a statistical standpoint was against Druid Hills when he rushed for 165 yards on five carries.

"Whenever I get the ball, my goal was to score," Nelson said. "If everything lined up right, I tried to do everything I could to take it the distance. More times than not, my line had it blocked right."

But Cokely recognizes Nelson's performance against Blessed Trinity as his best of the year. The Spartans lost leading receiver Kalif Raymond and Nelson came through with big plays on offense to help beat the Titans, who were a playoff team this season.

"He really got us going in the Blessed Trinity game," Cokely said. "He carried the load. He ran the ball and a had a big game for us."

Cokely is hoping that's one of the intangibles that colleges will notice about Nelson.

Because of his size, Nelson has done everything he can to make recruiters forget about his stature. He brings a different gear of speed on the field. He nearly qualified for the state track meet in the 100-and 200-meter races last season and he also has 4.3-second time in the 40-yard dash.

"That's the fastest I've seen," Cokely said.

Nelson also played defensive back for GAC and made 25 tackles and on interception. He's also pretty strong in the weight room where he has a 500-pound squat max.

"That's why I put so much work on getting stronger and faster," Nelson said. "They may see that I'm short, but I can play."

Nelson said he's always been the shortest kid in his class when he was growing up. He reached 5-foot-5 in ninth grade and never grew again. Nelson always wanted to play college football and knew that not being your typical 5-10, 200-pound running back size would hurt him. That's whey he's worked so hard to make people forget he's only 5-5.

"I understand it. It's something I knew going into it. I've always been a short kid," Nelson said. "You look at colleges and a lot of guys are bigger, so it's something I had to deal with and that's why it's something I have committed to getting faster and stronger. So I could make up for my height."

Nelson has done a good job of making colleges forget about his lack of height. He's picked up nearly a dozen college scholarship offers. With his 3.97 GPA and high SAT score, he's attracted just about every Ivy League school and all of the service academies.

"They haven't brought it up. Partly because the service academies recruit a lot of short guys," Nelson said. "The Ivy League schools have mentioned it, but they are willing to look over the height."

With so many teams going to zone-read offenses, Cokely thinks Nelson can have a bright college future where it's at running back or returning kicks.

"In high school, we don't always block it right, but he always seemed to find the hole," Cokely said. "He's a great zone runner and great stretch runner. That's what everyone is doing nowadays and that's why the want him."

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