Any linebacker’s worth is normally measured by the metric of being able to “get to the ball.”
Colleyville Heritage inside linebacker Pelini Nau has developed that knack in his senior season and is now averaging 11 tackles per game.
But that ability hasn’t come without dedicated focus and work on his technique and mental preparation.
Nau, a 5-11, 185-pounder, said his football career didn’t start with indications he’d be making headway on the Panthers’ varsity squad.
Last year, Nau was an inch shorter and 15 pounds lighter.
“I was never a starter on the freshman team, B-team or JV,” Nau said. “And last year, I played behind a senior. I was finally able to work my way to a starting role.”
A full off-season and summer spent working out and involvement in the strength and conditioning camp have helped turn the tide for Nau.
Heritage head coach Joe Willis acknowledged the linebacker – who was moved from the outside to inside – was one of the best defensive players for the Panthers, but as this is his first year as a starter, had yet to get the recognition he deserved.
“Last year, I went from outside to inside linebacker and I wasn’t comfortable at first,” Nau said.
Now, the position feels more natural for Nau and his knack for finding the ball and securing the tackle is becoming second nature.
Nau credits some of the added advancement to his time spent playing rugby. The other element which helps Nau settle in each game is his mental focus.
“A lot of the guys come into the locker room before a game listening to rap music,” Nau said. “I prefer to listen to music which helps calm me,” he said.
And Nau said his coaching staff this year is just right for him and has been encouraging and a good fit.
This is the third head coach for Heritage in as many years, but Nau said Willis and his staff have the Panthers ready to make a strong district schedule run and hopefully playoff appearance.
“This season we’re trying to get better each week,” Nau said. “We really feel like we can do it.”
The expectation for Nau and his teammates was to win every game.
The first district game was a 59-33 loss to Trinity and the Panthers just had a bye week. They are now preparing for Haltom at the Birdville Fine Arts and Athletic Complex on Friday.