TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- On Derrick Henry's third touchdown against LSU this past Saturday, the junior tailback walked into the end zone untouched from 7 yards out.
Alabama's offensive line did its job, but it was Henry's lead blocker, Michael Nysewander, who cleared the way.
Nysewander, who plays fullback, H-back and some tight end, threw LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White back two or three yards which allowed Henry to stroll in.
"I told Michael Nysewander he did a great job. Highway 46," Henry said. "I'm rocking with him the whole way. He did a great job of blocking on Saturday."
Anytime the star running back gives you a nickname, you must have done something right.
Nysewander's block also drew some laughs during film sessions this week.
"He flattened the guy. He knocked the guy down and pancaked him," Tide tight end O.J. Howard said. "And that was pretty funny. He started high stepping. The celebration was pretty funny, too. So we all joked with him about that. But he's just having a good time. That's how he is."
Nysewander and No. 2 Alabama (8-1, 5-1 SEC) travel to Starkville, Miss. on Saturday to face No. 20 Mississippi State (7-2, 3-2 SEC) at 3:30 p.m.
With Alabama losing Jalston Fowler, who served as the do-it-all player in previous years, Nysewander has stepped up to fill some of that void.
Nysewander's lone reception this season went for a nine-yard touchdown. His play won't jump out in many box scores. But he's earning recognition from his teammates and on the award circuit.
On Wednesday, Nysewander was one of 55 players nominated for the Burlsworth Trophy, which is annually presented to the nation's most outstanding player who began his career as a walk-on.
"He's just one of those throwback players to me. You've got to love him," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "I get a smile on my face every time I talk about him. He's just a tough grinder. He does a really good job for us on special teams and he's a very productive fullback. He's a fifth-year guy around here and he's worked hard and it's finally paying off for him."
Howard, who's been around Nysewander for three years now, said Nysewander being a hard-working walk-on gives him a lot of clout in the locker room.
"He has a lot of respect on the team," Howard said. "I know a lot of young guys look up to Michael because he's a great guy off the field, too. It's so much respect for a kid like that. He plays hard, never gives up. He never complains. Even if he doesn't play a snap in a game, he comes back the next week and practices hard. I love it."
Along with his role on offense, Nysewander has also become one of the Crimson Tide's top defenders on kickoff coverage, tying for the team lead with five stops. He's delivered big hits on a few of the opposing team's return men on kickoff.
During his Wednesday news conference, Saban heaped even more praise on the Hoover, Ala., native.
"(He is) everything that anybody thinks that a football player or a competitor should be in terms of work ethic, doing the right things, always giving 100 percent, always trying to pay attention to do things right and puts the team first all the time," Saban said. "He's very well-liked by his teammates. He cares about the team more than he cared about himself. I don't know if he's ever asked the question 'What about me or how much am I going to play?' I can't think of one thing I would say that if you were looking for the perfect attitude on your team, that he wouldn't fit that. The guy is really tough, and he plays as close to his full potential as anybody on our team because of the character and attitude he competes with."
-- Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter:@Marq_Burnett.