In order to move forward, Christion Nealy took a step to the back.
The defensive backfield, that is.
Nealy, a senior safety on the Hurst L.D. Bell Blue Raiders football team, likely improved his chances of playing college football by agreeing to a move from wide receiver this season.
“Recruiters say ‘Man, he’s a big safety,’ ” Bell head coach Mike Glaze said. “He’s tall, rangy and makes up a lot of ground.”
Not that Nealy wasn’t already being looked at by colleges. During the summer he was named one of the state’s top wide receivers by Dave Campbell’s Texas Football magazine.
However, as Glaze noted, there are plenty of wide receivers in the state who are 6-2 and 195 pounds. At safety, not so much.
“Every 6-4 and 6-5 player wants to be a receiver, but not very many safeties are that tall,” Nealy said. “I do feel this was a good move for me, and it feels great to be doing the tackling for a change.
“At first I was a little scared, I’ll admit. It was completely new to me. I was used to getting hit, and now I’m doing the hitting.”
And doing it well. He’s averaging almost seven tackles per game. Nealy said it helps having played wide receiver.
“I know how they run routes. Even how they line up tells me if the ball is coming to them,” he said.
Nealy’s older brother, Kamari Syrie, played safety for Bell. He received a scholarship to play for Iowa State, one of the schools that has also shown interest in Christion.
Syrie, while home for the summer, gave his brother some pointers on playing the position.
“Whenever he would come to our 7-on-7 games, he’d pull me over and talk to me. It helped a lot,” Nealy said.
Nealy said among the colleges that have inquired about him also include the likes of Utah State, Kansas State and Navy. Glaze said he’s been asked by coaches from “Tulsa to Texas Wesleyan.”
“He’ll sign some place,” Glaze said. “Not only is he talented, but he’s a kid of high character, smart, and he’s a leader.
“A senior who is looked at as one of your leaders, who says, ‘Put me where you want me,’ that’s something any coach at any level loves. It also sets a great leadership example for the younger players about team coming first.”
Nealy admits he sometimes misses playing wide receiver. Sometimes on the sidelines he will play catch with teammates. He said it pacifies him, but he wants to continue to improve at his new position.
Nealy is also a good track athlete. He runs the 200, is on relays and competes in triple jump.
“I love track. I just love to compete,” he said.
Once in college, he plans to major in either kinesiology or accounting.
“I’m interested in being a trainer, but I would also be interested in going into business,” he said. “I’m really good with numbers.”