True Freshmen Emerge as 2003 Game Day Players

Dan Van Sweden

It is not common for true freshmen to make a meaningful contribution on the football field at BYU. Names like <b>Aaron Francisco</b> and <b>Paul Walkenhorst</b> immediately come to mind as exceptions to the rule, but they are usually few and far between. This fall, however, BYU may use as many as three or four true freshmen in game situations because they are that good.

An emerging story involving two true freshmen is at BYU's seemingly deep and senior-laden linebacker position. This is not about true freshmen recently returned from LDS missions either.

Meet All-State 5A Texas high school linebacker David Nixon and All-State Utah tight end standout Dan Van Sweden (pictured), who is being converted to linebacker.

No less an authority than BYU head coach Gary Crowton spoke glowingly about both players.

"With (Paul) Walkenhorst out for the time being, we'll look to either one of those guys to step up and contribute this season. It's too early at this point to see if either of them will be able to at this point, but I like what I've seen and heard thus far about their respective work ethic.

"I think we'll probably redshirt one and play the other. I also feel that one will probably serve a mission and will leave, but you never know. We'll just see who is better able to contribute this season and go from there."

Making the adjustment from high school to Division 1 football is no small task. The practice habits, the amount of plays and different formations they are required to learn along with just fitting in and finding a place with the team is hard enough. After starring at their respective high schools, it can be an eye-opening experience and challenge for even the most highly-touted recruits.

"The speed of the game is the biggest difference and the biggest adjustment," Nixon said today. "The player's size isn't that much different, but it's definitely the speed that takes the most getting used to at this point."

Both Nixon and Van Sweden arrived in Provo early in the summer and have impressed teammates. Senior linebacker Levi Madarieta weighed in: "I like both of those guys. They're both looking real good thus far and they are working real hard. They both will be good and may even contribute this season."

Nixon added "I don't have any expectations in regards to playing time, but I just want to help where they feel I can. Of course I want to play, but if they want me to redshirt then that's fine. I just want to do whatever is best for the team. We're BYU. A lot is expected of us. We need to get back to where we should be and I'll do whatever it takes to help achieve the level of prominence to where BYU needs to be."

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