NSA freshman top Va. linebacker

Published 10:43 pm Friday, November 30, 2012

NSA freshman inside linebacker Cole Christiansen (45) looks to snag one of his team-leading 16 tackles in an Oct. 13 game against Norfolk Academy. | Sam Mizelle Photo

With 102 tackles to his credit, Nansemond-Suffolk Academy freshman inside linebacker Cole Christiansen was ranked first in the state and 17th in the nation among freshmen for the 2012 season, according to MaxPreps.com, a CBSSports.com website.

Since the Saints advanced to the Virginia Independent Schools Athletic Association Division II state championship game, Christiansen had played at least one or two games more than the other high-ranked tacklers, but his statistics were strong even without the extra games. He averaged 8.5 tackles per game.

NSA freshman inside linebacker Cole Christiansen had an auspicious year, finishing with more tackles than any other freshman in the state according to MaxPreps.com.

“I was ecstatic,” Christiansen said. “I was leading for a good time, and then I kind of dropped back in the middle of the season, and then this year I really kind of just pulled away from everyone.”

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He summed up how he thought his freshman football campaign went.

“Definitely as good as I guess it could have gone,” he said. “Probably made a few mistakes every now and then, but worked hard, and I think I did as good as I could have done.”

A highlight of the season came in the Saints’ 16-8 loss to Norfolk Academy on Oct. 13. Despite the loss, Christiansen racked up 16 total tackles to lead his team.

NSA head coach Lew Johnston got an early glimpse of Christiansen in 2011.

“We knew last year as an eighth- grader the type of talent he had,” Johnston said. “He actually played on the (junior varsity team), obviously, but we brought him up and he had a number of snaps as an eighth-grader on the varsity (team).”

Johnston estimated that Christiansen grew about three inches between the end of last year and this fall.

“So, he came in, he had a kind of rangy look to him that we knew we had to get him in there,” he said. “Pretty much from day one, he was penciled in as one of our starting inside linebackers.”

“He’s old school from the standpoint (that) he is just tough as nails,” he said. “He’d go through a wall for you and never ask why.”

Saints’ defensive coordinator Mike Newhall expected Christiansen to be good since, he coached the boy when he played Pop Warner. He was particularly impressed with Christiansen’s football I.Q.

“He got other players in the right position, which I think is pretty remarkable being a freshman, to have that kind of mental awareness along with the physical attributes to play the position,” Newhall said. “It’s very demanding.”

Christiansen knew whom to credit for his big year.

“My dad, definitely, because he was all-state when he played and gave me all my pointers,” he said.

He resisted his dad’s efforts to get him to play football, but the younger Christiansen eventually relented and now claims football as his favorite sport, particularly playing defense.

His father, David Christiansen, was pleased with his son’s zest for continued improvement.

“Obviously, we’re real proud with what he’s done, but I think the biggest thing is that he truly improves every week,” he said. “He could play football 52 weeks a year, and I think he would improve 52 times.”

He related how his son spends copious amounts of time studying game film to prepare. He also credited his son’s never-quit mentality.

“If you watch the films, he’s one of the ones that if he does get blocked or he does get knocked down, he gets right back up, he’s right back in the play, and 50 percent of the time, he is still the person who makes the tackle even after the fact,” he said.

And Christiansen’s standing as a ninth-grade football player simply taps into his core motivation.

“Just to be the best,” he said. “To be number one in the state and all that stuff, that really just kind of feeds the fire.”