Something For Nellie
Their final road trip began before sunrise on a Saturday morning in December. On the bus ride to Foxboro the sky lit up a bright orange which just happens to be part of their school colors. Once inside Gillette Stadium the Middleborough high school football team was feeling the usual butterflies prior to a big game. Middleborough was about to play THE game of their young lives and the butterflies felt more like falcons in their bellies. The Sachems battle cry all year was "FAM" for family. It was their twitter handle, it was printed on their footballs and before each game they raised their hands and yelled "1-2-3 FAM" before they burst onto the field.
The Sachems played all 5 of their post season games on the road, enough to rattle most teenagers but MIddleborough was never alone – it seemed as if the entire town shut down for every road trip as busload after busload followed them on their quest for a Super Bowl title. By the time 9AM rolled around on the first Saturday morning of December one side of Gillette Stadium was a sea of orange and black.
Said quarterback Evan Gwozdz, “the whole town of Middleborough came out to show their support at the stadium as well as the parade after the game. It was unbelievable, it was talk of the town for sure.”
Middleborough's triumph in that Super Bowl was for plenty of people, most especially for their long-time assistant coach, Scott Nelson, who passed away unexpectedly in July. Nelson wore number 57 when he played for the Sachems in the 1970's - #57 fueled the 2017 Sachems
as the crowd constantly chanted in unison “Nellie….Nellie…Nellie!”
“He’s been watching over us all year, just to play with that 57 sticker on the back of our helmet all year has been a truly inspirational thing,” said Gwozdz
Added wide receiver Colin O'Brien, “I love looking at that sticker with the #57 on it. It reminds me before every game why we’re playing, why we’re doing what we’re doing”
Holding back tears recalling his friend and confidante, head coach Patrick Kingman simply stated “Nellie was everything to everybody. He was a mentor to me when I arrived, he was a good friend, he was all that was good about high school football and he was all about the kids from Middleborough.
Offense, defense special teams ..it was a special win for a special FAM, a special town and a special man.
"When I got my hands on that trophy it was unbelievable, something I dreamed about since middle school. To finally get it done is unbelievable – awesome, especially to win it for coach Nelson," said captain Shawn McCarthy.
From the trophy celebration at Gillette, the party continued to the streets of Middleborough. It was right out of Norman Rockwell. The players were still in uniform. It was pure Americana and it happened during the most wonderful time of the year. They carried their trophy down main street and they hoisted a uniform with the number 57.
“The thing that hits you is wow, its finally over. There's a lot of grinding, a lot of work goes into this, but through it all we knew that 57 jersey was there, always with us and some very special things happened along the journey and especially at Gillette Stadium," said Kingman
This was a win for an entire community and multiple generations of the good people of Middleborough who were brought together by a group of football players who honored the memory of one of their own. They made their neighbors, friends, families and classmates proud. They delivered "Something For Nellie" to an entire community!