HUNTINGTON — Doug Nester’s countdown sits at 19 days.
That’s all the time the Spring Valley football star has left as a high school student.
A nationally heralded 6-foot-6, 317-pound tackle, Nester will enroll at Ohio State University in January, graduating early to get a jump on a college career he hopes leads to a career in the NFL.
“It kind of sucks,” Nester said, with a laugh. “It’s definitely emotional. I just have to be ready to go up there and work hard.”
First, though, Nester and his Spring Valley teammates undertake a bit of unfinished business. No. 2 Spring Valley (13-0) takes on top-seeded Martinsburg (13-0) at noon Saturday in the Class AAA state championship game at Wheeling Island Stadium. The Bulldogs defeated the Timberwolves in each of the last two state title contests.
“It’s a great challenge,” Nester said of playing Martinsburg, winner of six of the last eight state championships. “They’re a great team and we have to play well.”
After Saturday, the next uniform Nester pulls on will be the scarlet and grey of the Buckeyes. His next game prep will be for Ohio State’s 2019 opener with Florida Atlantic. When the OSU offense takes the field in that game, Nester plans to be in the starting lineup.
“I’m going to Columbus with an open mind, but I’ve never sat at any time I’ve played football,” Nester said. “I’m not going up there to sit the bench.”
Starting as a freshman at one of the more powerful programs in the country is a challenge, but Nester has given himself a head start by enrolling early. Several scouting services rate Nester one of the top five offensive linemen in the nation. Going through spring practice, learning the playbook, hitting the weight room and adjusting to college classes figures to give Nester an advantage over freshmen who arrive later.
Strong and fast, Nester hopes to vie for the starting spot to be vacated by senior Isaiah Prince at right tackle, but is open to playing wherever he is asked.
“Basically, it’s a job, college football,” Nester said. “Academics, athletics, all of it. I’ll work hard and try not to be scared.”
Spring Valley coach Brad Dingess said he has no doubt that Nester, who plans to major in business management, will succeed.
“Doug’s an awesome kid, not only on the football field, but personally, in the classroom, in the community,” Dingess said. “He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever had play for me.”
As much as he will miss high school, Nester said he looks forward to going to Ohio State, his lifelong favorite team. The Buckeyes’ record-setting 62-39 thrashing of arch-rival Michigan last week whetted Nester’s appetite to play in front of 110,000 people at Ohio Stadium.
Nester narrowed his college choice to Ohio State and Virginia Tech. The Buckeyes won.
“It’s a special place,” Nester said of Ohio State. “Since I was very young, I’ve been a Buckeyes fan. It’s been my dream to play there. My whole family is Ohio State fans and it’s where I felt most comfortable.”
Nester has met Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, former Buckeyes star and current Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott and ex-Ohio State star Michael Thomas, a wide receiver with the New Orleans Saints. While on OSU’s campus, Nester also met Pro Football Hall of Fame member Emmitt Smith, whose son E.J. is being recruited by Ohio State.
“That was pretty cool to see those guys,” Nester said.
Nester is a high-profile player, but shies from attention. He said the recruiting process was fun for a while, but it wore on him. He grew tired of being out of town visiting colleges each weekend and grew weary of constant calls from coaches.
Nester uses his experience to help fellow offensive line mates Zach Williamson, who has committed to the University of Louisville, and Wyatt Milum, a sophomore who owns several major college scholarship offers.
“To see all the doors opening for those guys is special,” Nester said. “I enjoy helping them get through the process and anything I can do, any advice I can give, I will. You have to sort through a lot of stuff.”