If you hang around the Carson High football program long enough, you will hear head coach Blair Roman utter those words frequently.
And, you would be hard pressed to find a smarter football player than CHS linebacker Nolan Shine, who leads the Carson Senators into Saturday’s regional championship game (1:05 p.m.) against perennial powerhouse Reed. Roman can’t say enough great things about his senior co-captain, who’s considered one of the best defensive players in Northern Nevada.
“He’s one of those players who understands what to do and doesn’t need a lot of reps to pick it up. He picks things up quickly on both sides of the ball. He just knows the game. His football IQ is off the charts. He understands his reads.
“You would have to ask Nolan if his brother(s) had something to do with it. Justin was a tough nut just like Nolan. Nick was a great player. He was the best blocking tight end I’ve ever seen. Nick was one of the best players to come out of here.”
And, Shine’s knowledge came at an early age.
Vic Castro, the Senators’ fiery special teams and defensive line coach, remembers a story from his Pop Warner days when he coached Shine and several other current CHS players.
“We were going to the Snow Bowl, and I had my final defensive sheet prepared with formations and tendencies,” Castro said. “Nolan asked me to look at it. He was 12 or 13 at the time. Any other kid would have said ‘Oh yeah’ and handed it back to me.
“Nolan studied it for about an hour or hour and a half, and hands it back to me and said he was ready to go. We went out and beat South Tahoe that day.”
Shine does credit his older brother, Nick, who was a walk-on player at the University of Nevada, after finishing his career at Carson for some of his success. Nick Shine is now a firefighter in Las Vegas.
“My brother played for UNR,” said the 6-foot 170-pound Shine. “He taught me how important making proper reads were. We watched film together even back when I was in Pop Warner. That’s where a lot of the knowledge comes from.
“Nick watches every game on Hudl. He calls me and talks to me about what I did well and what I could get better at. He breaks all the games down.”
Shine has impressed veteran coach Shane Quilling, who has tutored Shine the last couple of years.
“I’ve been coaching a long time,” Quilling said. “He is one of the best readers I’ve ever coached. He just finds ways to make plays even when he’s doing something wrong. He is so aggressive. He makes a lot of plays on the back side because he is so darn fast. He was built to play linebacker.”
“Coach (Steve) Dilley thinks I’m always freelancing,” Shine said. “I’m not the biggest guy around. I’m probably the smallest middle linebacker in Northern Nevada. I don’t know what it is, I just slip past guys a lot of the time. I think the key to my success is speed; seeing where the play is going and getting there as fast as I can.”
And, that’s plenty quick as his 71 tackles would attest. He seems to be everywhere, slithering in and out of tight spots to put a big hit on an unsuspecting back or receiver. He has three double-digit tackle games — 13 vs Hug and 10 each against Galena and McQueen. It was his move from quarterback to being a full-time linebacker and special teams maven that sparked Carson during the Sierra League season and the first two weeks of the postseason.
Shine started the first five games at quarterback, all the while playing some linebacker, too.
After a disappointing start at Damonte (1-for-13), Joe Nelson came on and threw a game-winning pass in the final minute to beat the Mustangs.
The following week Shine moved to inside linebacker, and the Senators posted back-to-back shutouts. In the last five games, Carson’s defense has allowed just three scores.
Nelson has won five straight games as a starter. It has turned into a win-win for both the players and the team.
“The vibe I got was what was best for the team,” said Roman when asked how Shine handled the news. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he wasn’t disappointed.
“He had that bad game against Damonte, and knowing the type of young man he is, I know he was chomping to get back out there to redeem himself and he never got the opportunity because I made the change.”
Shine appears at ease with the decision.
“I’ve always been a linebacker,” he said. “It worked out best for both of us. I wanted what was best for the team. Joe has stepped it up to a whole other level.
“I’m not disappointed with the decision. I like being able to come in and fly around on defense.”
While many point to Shine’s emergence as being the key to the defensive turnaround, he shrugs it off.
“I don’t know that it’s me,” he said. “The whole unit has come together.”
And the group has a chance to show how much Saturday against the best offense in Northern Nevada.
It’s a challenge Shine embraces, because that’s the type of guy he is.