BETTING ON ABILITY: Breon’s adjustment to two-way action drawing strong college interest
By BRANDON HURLEY
Versatility can take an athlete a long way in the intricate game of football.
Which is why Greene County’s Nick Breon didn’t flinch when the prospect of new offensive responsibilities arose early this fall. And it’s a reason why he refuses to shy away from the brutal rigors of recruitment.
The senior views each challenge as an opportunity to make an even greater impact. If that means extra time in the weight room or a new role, so be it. He’s ready to embrace what the future holds.
The back-to-back first team, all-District 9 linebacker turned wide receiver, running back and general wild card became one of the Rams’ most versatile athletes as the program embarked on its most successful season to date. Breon’s consistent success and willingness to try his hand on the offensive side has garnered significant interest from small colleges throughout the country.
As first-year head coach Caden Duncan puts it, Breon was Greene County’s secret weapon while the Rams barreled their way toward history. He was shifted to backup running back when Joel Ward went down with an injury early in the year and became the third receiving option for record-setting quarterback Brent Riley. Starting running back Colby Kafer, who finished the year second in the state with 1,484 yards, battled injuries throughout much of the season as well, which led to Breon taking even more reps out of the backfield.
“He was really valuable because we bounced him all over the place,” the coach said. “He could go under the utility category this year. He played receiver and running back and if we needed him to play tight end, he would’ve. He can play defensive line, linebacker and safety. It was really helpful having Nick, and he’s obviously a really good threat in the passing game.
Duncan continued, “We are going to miss him next year because he’s kind of a Swiss Army knife for us. I could always count on him being aggressive and flying to the football. It really paid dividends.”
Breon hauled in 38 catches for 405 yards and six touchdowns this fall while also carrying the rock 32 times for 168 yards (5.3 yards per carry), making the transition from full-time linebacker to a multi-dimensional offensive threat look easy.
Coach Duncan said Breon’s knack for hauling in tough catches is what impressed him most during his transformation. Breon entered the 2019 season with just one career catch, but quickly became one Greene County’s most reliable options, no matter if he ran routes out of the backfield or shifted into the slot role. Quite the impressive feat for a career linebacker.
“He’s got really soft hands and you don’t always think of a linebacker like that,” Duncan said. “He has good moves when he has the ball in his hands. He does some really great things. He’s a really good blocker, too, because he’s physical.”
Defense is where Breon made his calling over the last three years, tallying 138.5 total tackles, which places him in a tie for fourth all-time in Greene County history with Jake Berns (Class of 2018). He was second on the team in tackles each of the last two years – 64 tackles in 2018 (which earned him a first team all-district selection) and 44 in 2019 – and led the Rams in tackles for loss a year ago (18) and tied for the team lead this fall along with Will Hansen (7). Breon also recorded four total sacks.
The brute physicality of defense is what attracts Breon.
“There’s a wide open hole and you know people are going to see it. You hit him right before the hole and lay the wood,” he said. “It’s the best feeling ever.”
The senior’s precise route-running as well as his versatility on defense has caught the eye of a few college programs. Breon holds scholarship offers from Minnesota West Community College, Morningside College (the defending NAIA national champions), Ellsworth Community College, Arkansas Baptist College and Arizona Christian University, among a few others with strong interest, including Iowa Western CC and Iowa Central Central as well as looks from, UNI, Northern Illinois and Indiana State.
“(For him to be successful in college) he’d need to know all the routes, know all the plays,” Duncan said. “Consistency, that matters in college, because if you can’t pick it up, they’ll just move to the next guy.”
Breon’s leaning toward navigating the two-year, junior college route in order to bulk up and hopefully snag a future four-year offer. He knows there’s room for improvement. Most school’s don’t necessarily value undersized athletes, which has left him in a bit of limbo.
“They’ve said I’m all there (with my) physicality, they just want to see me bigger,” the Ram said. “I want (to do that) because I know I can play at that level. And maybe if I do and work hard enough, I’ll be playing with partner Tyler Miller (at Iowa State).”
Breon admits better nutrition will be a key component as he makes a push toward college football. That coupled with a more fierce training regimen.
“(I need to) work (in) the offseason more. Don’t take days off,” Breon said. “I’m going to lift everyday. I’m going to try and get to 215 pounds, I’m at 198 right now. It’s been a fun process.”
Breon certainly has options as to what position he may play in college. Some schools really like his potential at wide receiver while others want him to perhaps shift to safety. It wouldn’t be as tough a transition as you’d think, he said.
“I have the physicality for it and at the safety spot, you just have to read the ball,” Breon said. “Interceptions are going to be key. You have to be able to hit, obviously, but I think that would be the perfect spot.”
Breon was tabbed to play in the 2019 River Battle Bowl Saturday, Nov. 30 in Council Bluffs, a fitting cap to his career as he inches closer to a college decision.
Kick-off will be at 2 p.m. inside Gale Wickersham Stadium. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students.
The annual all-star game, which began in 2015, showcases many of the top high school recruits in Iowa and Nebraska. The two states have split the four meetings, with Nebraska prevailing in the most recent showdown, 35-20 in 2019.
The full 2019 rosters will be revealed Saturday, though Iowa’s roster will also feature Des Moines Christian quarterback Jackson Waring, The game’s most notable alumnus is current NFL rookie tight end, Noah Fant, who played for the Nebraska squad in 2015 and later went on to star for the University of Iowa. The receiving threat was selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft by the Denver Broncos.