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A Salute to the 2015 Alabama Seniors: Michael Nysewander

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Another ring for Michael Nysewander.
Another ring for Michael Nysewander.
John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Not only is this a tribute to tight end/H-back/special teams specialist/bulldozer Michael Nysewander, but a tribute to all the walk-ons who get so little glory.

These young men just love their school and the game of football so much that they turn down playing time at smaller programs to follow their dream. It is often a thankless task to hold dummies, wear an orange (shudder) jersey mimicking an opposing player on the scout team, or allowing yourself to get pummeled by grown-ass men like A'Shawn Robinson or Cam Robinson. But the walk-ons work just as hard, if not harder in some cases, as the players on scholarship. Most walk-ons seldom see the field. Of those fortunate few, even less are actually involved in a key play. And then there are the tiniest amount of players who become starters. Michael Nysewander has done all these things.

The Birmingham native played his high school ball at powerhouse Hoover High School for Josh Niblett. As a junior defensive lineman, his Buccaneers won the Alabama 6A state championship. His senior season ended in heartbreak as future teammate T.J. Yeldon scored from 1 yard out to give Daphne the state crown in 2010 for Hoover's only loss on the season.

The former Buc probably could've played at a lower level in college. Or like most high school players, just hang it up and become a fan. But he took the harder path. At a tick over 6-feet tall and in the 220 range, he knew he was too small to play D-line as he had at Hoover. His best path was as a fullback. But does the Crimson Tide use a fullback? Learning behind Jalston Fowler would be the key.

Nysewander didn't see the field his first two years but was still rewarded with 2011 and 2012 National Champions rings.

Finally in 2014, he made his way onto the field as a junior. As a reserve tight end/H-back, he saw action against West Virginia, FAU, Southern Miss, Florida, Texas A&M, Western Carolina, Missouri, and Ohio State. Versus Southern Miss, he made his first career catch, a nine-yard reception. Against Western Carolina he found the end zone for the first time in his career on a 12-yard touchdown catch from Jake Coker. He also made a huge tackle against the Buckeyes in the Sugar Bowl on kickoff coverage.

As a fifth-year senior this season, he became a vital part of the offense providing blocking for Derrick Henry as well as coverage on special teams. Nyswander played in all 15 games compiling 6 stops on special teams.

He isn't the offensive threat that Jalston Fowler was, but he can bring the thunder as a blocker much as his predecessor did. In Bama's win over LSU, Nysewander recorded multiple knockdown blocks. He only caught one ball this season but he made it count with a 19-yard touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe. With three career receptions for the Crimson Tide, two have gone for touchdowns. Not a bad percentage...

From al.com:

Watching from the sideline, Tide coach Nick Saban said he got emotional after Nysewander, a senior and former walk-on, crossed the goal line.

That was Nysewander's third career catch and second career touchdown. It was his first catch this season.

"That almost made me cry, to be honest with you," Saban said during his weekly Thursday night radio show. "I mean I just loved it for him and his family."

"There's a special place in your heart sometimes for some of the players that you have on the team," Saban told al.com. "Here's a guy that's been in the program for four or five years. Walk-on. Hard worker, I mean works hard every day. Overachiever. Does everything that any coach would ever want a player to do. And you can never be happier or feel better for someone when something good like that happens for them and they get an opportunity to score a touchdown."

Nyswander was selected as a Burlsworth Award nominee, an award that honors the top walk-on player in the nation.

A big "Roll Tide" to ol' #46 and to all those unsung players out there who make the Crimson Tide better.