Nick Coe doesn’t dispel the notion he’s a quiet kid in conversation.
In an interview last week, Coe was upbeat, if brief, discussing national signing day and his plans to sign with Auburn on Wednesday.
“It’s great,” Coe said. “I’m excited to be done.”
While he offered few words to describe his emotions, his concise way of speaking shouldn’t worry Tigers’ fans.
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The soft-spoken defensive lineman said he feels at home on the plains. The coaching staff’s way of treating him like family throughout the recruiting process helped them reel in the 4-star prospect.
“He’s a bit of an old soul,” Asheboro head coach Owen George said with a laugh.
George had to push Coe to get a Twitter account to help with recruiting, but the North Carolina native mostly stays away from social media. After breaking his cell phone weeks ago, he hasn’t even bothered to replace it.
“Five days away from signing day and he doesn’t even have a phone. I think that tells you a lot,” George said.
George is the one who described Coe’s introverted personality. The third-year coach would love to see Coe breakout from his reserved nature, but isn’t worried about it hindering his ability to succeed at the next level.
Coe has the drive and talent to be an impact player even if he’s too shy to admit it.
Grappling with success
Florida State assistant coaches gushed about Coe’s highlight tape during a visit to Asheboro High School last year.
“I had put together his football highlights, so I thought that was great,” George said. “It turns out they were talking about watching tape of him wrestling on YouTube.”
Before Coe touched a football at Asheboro, he was a prodigy on the wrestling mat as a middle schooler. Coe’s combination of size and strength made him a natural grappler.
“I don’t think he lost his first two years wrestling,” George said.
Coe’s perfect run came to an end his freshman year, but he didn’t stumble that badly, finishing fourth in the state at 225 pounds. Last year, Coe captured the state heavyweight title with a 47-3 record.
He added more hardware in the offseason by winning the heavyweight title at the FloNationals in Pennsylvania. The annual tournament boasts a lineup of heavy-hitters from the high school wrestling world.
In the finals, Coe was down 6-5 with less than 30 seconds left in the third round to Dan Perry, a multi-sport standout from Lapeer High School in Michigan.
Perry, a signee to the University of Michigan wrestling program was 61-0 his junior year. Perry was heading towards victory with Coe on the mat, but he fought back to standing then stunned Perry with a takedown as the clock hit nine seconds.
All the work Coe has put in on the wrestling mat has helped him become equally dominant on the football field. George calls Coe’s wrestling background a “tremendous asset.”
“His leverage and that push-pull technique from wrestling, every coach that’s been through here has commented on it,” George said. “He is a special athlete.”
Passes the eye test
When Coe walked through the doors at Asheboro 6-foot-3 and more than 200 pounds he had the attention of the school’s football staff.
“There’s no doubt he passed the eye test,” George said.
Coe passed the same test for Auburn’s former linebackers coach Lance Thompson last spring. Thompson was quick to invite the now 6-foot-6, 250-pound lineman to one of Auburn’s summer camps during a visit to the school.
It helped that Coe had already established a reputation as one of the top pass rushers in North Carolina.
As a junior, Coe was second in the state with 19 sacks. He also had 15 tackles for loss and 11 quarterback hurries.
“He has the range, tremendous speed, can rip and swim, has a strong grip and plays well with his hands,” George said. “You saw his potential early on when we called him up as a freshman.”
Coe’s numbers weren’t as eye-popping as a senior, but he missed a third of the season with a partially torn MCL and faced constant double and triple teams.
The lower numbers — 68 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, seven sacks and three forced fumbles — didn't bother George considering the impact Coe had for a 10-3 Blue Comets team that made it to the second round of the playoffs.
Coe still was an all-county, all-conference player and even started getting reps on offense.
“We put him out at tight end and h-back,” George said. “He was so strong and gave us an advantage out on the perimeter setting the edge.”
If it wasn’t for Coe’s MCL injury he would have played in the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas all-star game.
Coe spent time with coach Gus Malzahn and Kevin Steele Friday morning at Asheboro.
The coaches have been on the road recruiting for the last three weeks. The visit to North Carolina was one of the staff’s final stops this month.
Coe enjoyed the face-to-face time with Auburn’s coaches and having a second chance to talk with the team’s new defensive coordinator.
“Steele came down after he got the job,” Coe said. “He seems great, seems like he’s in it to win it. He doesn’t expect a whole lot to change up front for me. He said maybe there would be a few changes with the way the team uses the linebackers and secondary.”
Auburn’s coaches didn’t need to spend time assuaging any doubts from the defender.
Coe’s been a solid verbal commitment since announcing his decision during his visit to campus the weekend of the Iron Bowl.
“He committed before kick off,” George said. “The weekend was kind of like the cherry on top for him.”
Coe almost pulled the trigger on committing much earlier than that.
While he recevied many high-profile offers including ones from Florida State, North Carolina, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Alabama, his visit to Auburn over the summer was enough for the school to catapult to the top of his list.
“We loaded up the bus for camp in July, came down here and he fell in love,” George said. “He stayed the night with one of the players, saw it was such a close community and the SEC facilities blew him away.”
Turnover on Auburn’s coaching staff didn’t impact Coe’s decision. He had developed a strong relationship with coach Thompson, but also had a good rapport with defensive line coach Rodney Garner.
Once Coe puts his name on the dotted line, he will get the chance to close out his wrestling career as a champion.
Doctors cleared Coe to return from his MCL injury right after Christmas. He’s 12-0 and looking to get enough matches in to qualify for the state tournament.
“It was a non-surgical thing,” George said. “It healed naturally. He was with the trainer working every day. I watched him the other day and he showed off that incredible strength. I hate to say it, but it’s almost comedic at times watching him dominate.”
Coe made it through the “tough” rehab process the same way he plans to earn a spot in the rotation at Auburn.
“It’s just who I am,” Coe said. “I just do it.”