By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle
ENID, Okla. —
A young Grant Nightengale proclaimed to his older brother Logan he was going to be an All-State quarterback some day at Fairview.
“He would always tell me, no I wouldn’t,’’ Nightengale remembered.
Famous last words.
Nightengale was selected to the Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State team Monday and voted by area coaches as the Enid News & Eagle All-Northwest Oklahoma 11-man Player of the Year.
“When people tell me I can’t do something, that just drives me harder to do it,’’ Nightengale said. “When someone tells me I can’t do something, that’s when I do it.’’
There wasn’t much Nightengale didn’t do for the 10-2 Yellowjackets in his senior season.
He was 197 of 293 passing for 2,532 yards and 29 touchdowns and rushed for 1,078 yards on only 131 carries and 17 touchdowns.
“It’s easy to be a quarterback when you have good players around you,’’ Nightengale said. “It’s easy to look good when you have good coaches, good linemen, good receivers and a good defense behind you.
“It’s been an honor to have all these rewards. All the hard work throughout the years has paid off.’’
He had played with his senior teammates in organized football since the sixth grade, and most of them even before that.
“The friendships and memories you make in football will last a lifetime,’’ he said.
Nightengale was called a “great leader and a great teammate’’ by Yellowjackets coach Chris Cayot.
“I’m a jabber guy,’’ Nightengale said. “I like to talk all the time.’’
Nightengale had a unique relationship with his line, all of whom were smaller than him, except for one.
“Sometimes I mouth back a little too soon,’’ he said with a smile. “When it’s five against one, you have to be careful. They’re not afraid to speak their mind, and that’s great. I don’t want to be a guy who is bossy. I want to be a friend and a leader to those guys ... hopefully, the things I’ve done have help them ... we’ll see what happens.’’
He directed a no-huddle offense which was almost non-stop. Often the Yellowjackets were frustrated because they had to wait for the officials.
He wants his legacy to be one of showing his younger teammates how to win. Nightengale was 2-8 in his first year as a starting quarterback, but came back to go 6-5 and 10-2. Fairview was 0-10 when he was a freshman.
“You have to have a different team attitude about playing the game,’’ Nightengale said about the turnaround. “That’s not easy for a sophomore quarterback to change. Seniors think differently than you. You have to change the mindset of players. I think the guys around me changed it.’’
He wants the future Yellowjacket teams to “be 10 times better than we were ... you try to show the young guys how to do it. Hard work is the main thing. Actions speak louder than words.’’
Fairview’s goal this season was to go 15-0. That’s the only important statistic to Nightengale.
“It doesn’t matter to me if I threw four interceptions, threw for only 50 yards and ran for 20,’’ he said. “As long as we win, that’s all I want for my team. I don’t dwell on individual goals. I would rather see everyone else’s goals accomplished before my own. I always had goals for myself. I just don’t want to say them to people.’’
Nightengale has known hardships in football.
He broke his leg in the middle of his sophomore season. He suffered two concussions this season, the second which knocked him out of the second half in a 28-21 loss to Cashion in the second round of the playoffs.
“I was in and out that game,’’ Nightengale said. “The thing that bothered me was that I wasn’t with my team. I keep telling myself it’s just a team thing. You can’t dwell on it.’’
Nightengale learned his work ethic from his parents Todd and Shelly on the family farm.
“My work ethic is based solely on how I grew up,’’ he said. “Work ethic is the key to everything and the way you grow up and what you want in life.’’
Nightengale and his brother, Logan, lived kind of the Norman Rockwell life — they played football in the fall, baseball in the spring and summer and shot hoops when there was snow on the ground. Logan was Fairview’s starting quarterback in 2009.
“My brother is the one who made me,’’ Nightengale said. “He’s the one who pulled me out of the house when I was eating chips.’’
Logan, an honor student at Oklahoma State University, is now his brother’s biggest cheerleader. He attended almost every game.
But the one thing Nightengale is the most grateful for is that his parents didn’t push him into sports. Neither was an athlete.
“That meant a lot to me,’’ he said. “I could go home and not worry about things or talk about sports all the time. I could be a kid. I could go and be with friends on a Saturday night to Enid. I’m very blessed having great parents and a great brother.’’
Nightengale was driven in the weight room to build himself into an athlete. At one time, he dreamed of playing college football.
He is undecided about his future. He is leaning toward attending OSU as a student. He still might take an offer from a smaller school.
The broken leg caused him to change his priorities some about sports.
“When I was a freshman and a sophomore and I was lifting all the time, I lived and breathed football,’’ Nightengale said. “That’s what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to play football in college.
“When something like that happens, it’s probably a good thing. It makes you realize it’s just a game and it’s not going to last forever.
“It was an eye-opener for me because I realized football is not everything in life. There are things a lot more important than football. I’m not saying football is not great. It’s great for people to play. But when football runs your life and is everything that you think about, then your priorities aren’t straight. I think have put it in perspective. Football is a game that’s not going to last forever. It’s a good thing that happened to me.’’
He enjoyed every minute he played, but he’s ready to move on.
“It’s the real world now,’’ Nightengale said. “When school is over it’s time to get a real time job. If you want to raise a family, football is not the only thing in your life.’’
Nightengale always admired the underdog. His role models are New England’s Wes Welker and Danny Woodhead, neither of whom were drafted.
“They made something out of themselves,’’ he said. “It means a lot to me to see an athlete like that make someone out of themselves when people say they can’t do it. If you prove to me that you’re going to be the type of person you are, you will earn my respect.’’
Nightengale’s future plan is in financial work, either as a financial advisor or a loan officer at a bank
“Of course, plans can always change,’’ he said.
He got interested in finance because he had to work for everything he has.
“Most kids’ parents pay for their vehicle, gas and everything,’’ Nightengale said. “When you’re 15 or 16 and you’re trying to work for money to be able to buy a pickup, you think more about what you spend, what you save and what you do with your money. I’ve always enjoyed that kind of stuff along the lines of helping people decide what they want to do with money and what they want to do with it for years to come.’’
Nightengale makes As and Bs, but said he’s not the student Logan was (4.0 and 29 ACT).
“I’m not the type of student who can look at something and memorize it,’’ he said. “I have to see it over and over to learn it. School has always been a struggle ... something I have to work at, but I love going to school.’’
And there was nothing he loved more than throwing passes to friends like Ross Smith, Michael Christopher and Bryce Kippenberger among others in practice.
“Football strengthens friendships, that’s what’s awesome about football, the friendships and things that happen because of them,’’ Nightengale said.