Players of the Pine Belt: Seminary senior Nathan Pickering

Players of the Pine Belt-Seminary senior Nathan Pickering

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Ever since he started playing the game, Nathan Pickering has been pretty easy to spot on the football field as one of the largest and most athletic player on his teams.

But this year, the spotlight has fallen on the 6-foot-5, 285-pound senior as never before, with a slew of collegiate coaches beating a path to Seminary High School to get a set of eyes on the Bulldogs' standout.

"He's got every offer in the world," Seminary coach Brian Rials said.

Pickering, who was selected as the Bulldogs' "Player of the Pine Belt," said the attention got to be a bit too much at times.

"When I first started getting recruited, so it was overwhelming," Pickering said. "But I started praying about it, got support from my family and coaches and friends and church family, and they helped me through it and that that helped me a lot."

And a few weeks back, Pickering announced he intended to sign with Mississippi State University, leaving him to focus on his final year of high school.

"My goals are to graduate with honors and lead the state in tackles," Pickering said.

Rials is putting nothing past his standout defensive end.

"He makes good grades, and that's one of the reasons all these colleges want him, but he's a smart football player, too," Rials said. "He's special. He's the total package, for sure."

And a versatile player as well.

"He's very athletic for his size," said Rials, who has 22 years of high school football under his belt. "He's going to play defensive end or defensive lineman in college, but we play him all over the field. We play him anywhere on the defensive line, then we play him at tight end, split him out at wide receiver, put him in the backfield at running back. He plays everywhere for us because he's so athletic for his size."

This spring, Pickering even lined up at quarterback in the 'Wildcat" formation, and went nearly 50 yards for a score.

"There were kids jumping out of his way," Rials said.

Pickering has been spotted all over the field since the 7th grade, when he would get a few carries a game.

Rials said he knew then that the youngster was someone to keep an eye on, but said that Pickering has surpassed even his expectations.

"You never really know, but even at that point, you could tell he could be something special," Rials said. "I'd be lying if I told you, 'Oh yeah, I knew in junior high he was going to be a SEC football player.' No, I didn't know that, but I knew he could be a special kid.

"I don't know how you know how good one is going to be because I've never coached one that has gotten this much attention from all these SEC schools."

Pickering and the Bulldogs are looking to improve on a 6-7 mark in 2017. Seminary finished as the fourth seed in a tough Region 8-3A, then upset the top seed in Region 6-3A, Velma Jackson in the opening round of the Class 3A playoffs, before losing to Port Gibson in the second round.

Pickering said while the Bulldogs lost some top seniors from a year ago, Seminary is poised to make some noise this fall.

"We're looking great," Pickering said. "We lost a lot of great seniors, but we have a lot of new talent coming in that's going to help us out."

Rials said Pickering will be counted on as one of the team's leaders even though the big Bulldog prefers to just be one of the guys.

"He's not a shy kid, but he's not just rah-rah and hollering, either," Rials said. "But, yeah, he gets into it.

"He's taking it all well. He's not acting like he's better than any other kid. He's just part of our team. But everybody knows that when the camera crews and the coaches show up, 'Hey, where's Nathan?' They're here to see him."