Ryan Nolan looks to build on breakout season at Chowan

For Ryan Nolan, a football field has served as a second home – from his days playing Pop Warner football in his native New Jersey to his days at Thomas Dale, where he played special teams as a junior when the Knights brought home a 2009 State Championship. Now it appears the former Knight has found a new gridiron home at Chowan University as their top option at wideout.

“He was our most productive wide receiver in the 2012 group,” said Chowan head football coach Tim Place. “He played a huge role in the offense and made many big plays for us.”

At first glance, Nolan may not look like a football player. The rising redshirt sophomore stands at 5 feet 11 inches and 170 pounds. However, his quickness, toughness and willingness to learn the game allowed him to walk on to the football team at Chowan in Murfeesboro, North Carolina. After a red-shirt season where Nolan improved his football body and mind, he burst onto the scene in 2012 catching 39 passes for 634 yards and six touchdowns, leading the team in all three categories.

“He’s tough, and not afraid to compete,” said Place. “He’s quick, elusive and has good hands, and has transitioned nicely from quarterback to wide receiver.”

For his efforts, Ryan was named to the CIAA All-Rookie team and received clout from D2football.com blogger Josh Buchanan who picked him as a D2 All-American Freshman selection.

In high school, Nolan moved up to varsity during his junior season as a quarterback, but mainly contributed on special teams and ran for a key first down in the state championship game in 2009 that sealed the game for the Knights. As a senior in 2010, he started at wide receiver and filled in at quarterback against Prince George, a game in which Nolan ran for 120 yards and threw for 100 in a victory.

Father Tim Nolan sent the video of that game out to many schools and Chowan came calling. The Hawks initially recruited Nolan as a quarterback but transitioned him to wide receiver.

“Ryan has always been a hard worker and he’s been working even harder to improve himself since being at Chowan. He’s made us proud.”

Nolan has spent most of his summer at Chowan working with teammates in the gym, doing one-on-one drills, playing 7 vs. 7 to get ready to try to improve on a season where Chowan finished 6-4, and fell one game short of a CIAA Championship game appearance.

“We lost a few close games in 2012,” said Nolan. “I’ve been working hard to get better and the team has really worked hard to get better, we want to make things happen next season.”

Coach Tim Place raved about Nolan and his toughness, which could be compared to the Denver Broncos Wes Welker, another small, but however tough, quick and elusive wide receiver.

“He’s one of the toughest players on the field,” said Place.

Nolan is thankful that Chowan gave him an opportunity to play football. During the recruiting process, only a few schools showed interest, and no one offered a scholarship outright, thus making Nolan a real diamond in the rough for the Hawks.

“I’m thankful everyday to be doing what I’m doing,” said Nolan. “I’m looking forward to working hard and playing these next three years at Chowan.”

Nolan is just another example of a Thomas Dale product that will be playing at the college level next season. Our ‘Next Level’ segment relaunches in our September 4 edition and will feature three athletes per week from fall sports from area schools who have moved on to the next level. For updates on these athletes and more, follow @VNewsSports on twitter.

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