It’s a privilege.”
When referring to playing football, these are the first uttered words from Nephi Sewell. Discussing his high school football career at Desert Hills thus far, Nephi explains how mentors and those who want the very best for him on and off the field, surround him.
“My father Gabriel is a big help. As the game goes on, he helps me pick up on what the other team is doing. That helps me know how to adjust if I have to.” Nephi’s mother, Arlene, comfortably points out an additional role Gabriel plays as well, directing her comment to Nephi, “He keeps you humble too, and tells you like it is.” Within moments of speaking with the Sewell family, the close bond they share is evident.
9th Grade Team MVP – 10th Grade 1st Team All-Region – 1st Team All-State – Special Teams Player of the Year – St. George and Salt Lake City All-Poly Defensive Back MVP
While clearly born with natural athletic ability, Nephi also possesses a desire to make the big play following every single snap of the ball. With such talent and ambition, Nephi’s amazing support structure helps keep him humble and grounded. As Nephi’s father Gabriel explains, “I’m his biggest critic. There is this hoopla around him and I always want him to remember, there are about 146 plays in a game. You make 5 good plays, but what about the other 141?” Great advice over the years has taught Nephi that there is always room for improvement.
Nephi’s typical day includes a full day of school, game film for an hour, and then practice for another two hours. Schoolwork however, is the top priority in the Sewell family. What is the rule in the Sewell house? Nephi explains, “We are only allowed to get A’s or B’s. Any C’s means we are not allowed on the field.” Consider it the Sewell family’s, “Standard of Excellence”. The number of youth that go from high school to collegiate sports is small, and the number dwindles further when looking at the amount that continue on to play professionally. Understanding this, Nephi is aware of the importance of receiving a quality education. “If I have to or feel that I am struggling with a subject, I will take that lunch break to visit with my teachers to get a better understanding of the lesson.” Taking initiative is a key component to being successful.
“I remember my first game playing little league football,” recalls Nephi. “We were living in American Samoa at the time and I didn’t think I would be able to play.” Arlene, his mother, remembers being quite worried for her small 10-year-old son. She claimed, “My little Nephi is going to get slammed by all of the lineman.” Due to it being the first year that American football was introduced to American Samoa, rules regarding age limit and weight restrictions were not yet set in place. Nonetheless, Nephi was able to receive his parent’s permission to play and took to the field for the first time. Position? Quarterback.
For a passionate athlete, a loss can feel much like heartbreak. Nephi’s first loss was no different. Originally believing that he and his young team were invincible, the eventual first loss hit Nephi rather hard. After a tough defeat, Nephi admits, “I try and distance myself from everyone because I know I’ve had a bad game, but then I try and learn from it.” The habit of learning from any loss came early for this football player. Referencing his first defeat, Nephi says, “It had a big effect on me because I’m a competitor, and I don’t like losing. After that loss I learned to not look so far ahead in the season. To take each game one by one.”
As a returning member of the Thunder Squad, Nephi has made it his responsibility to make new players feel welcome, going out of his way to extend a hand of friendship. “You have to make all the players feel welcome. It can be hard making the transition from Middle School to High School.”
Nephi works hard with each coach and mentor to identify how to improve his game, and looks to learn from anyone he can pick up useful tips from. Region rivals are no different. Nephi will often work out and spend time with those he competes against on the field during season. Each of these young athletes are more like friends than rivals. Sure they attend different schools, wear the opposing jersey come game time, but the Sewell household is often host to players from all across the region.
High school is a time when most players seem to battle for specific positions, but instead Nephi fully embraces the concept of team effort. “Whatever I can do to help make the team better.” If that means playing in a different position, he does so willingly. “Nephi will play whereever he can to make the greatest impact he can for his team,” says his father Gabriel.
“Yeah I want the ball…I’m giving everything I’ve got, and I am getting in the end zone.”
Nerves before every game are normal for Nephi, but he uses his pre-game routine to settle down and let the game come to him. “Fruity Pebbles. Has to be Fruity Pebbles. Also, before every game I listen to my Samoan Church music to keep me calm, and I always have to say a prayer before each game.”
When presented with the following scenario, Nephi answers with surety, maturity, and humility all at the same time. The scenario went along the following lines: “It’s the final play of the game. Desert Hills has the ball. You’re on the 10-yard line, and the clock is ticking. Do you want the ball?” “Yeah I want the ball,” responds Nephi. Diving even deeper, “And what will you do with the ball?” Nephi pauses before he answers, “I’m giving everything I’ve got, and I am getting in the end zone.” The scenario continues, “So you win the game and you find yourself in the locker room after a big win. What is the social media, Facebook or Twitter tweet you send out after the game? What do you say?” He smiles and answers, “I truly feel blessed.” • HSSI