DENHAM SPRINGS – Davion Nassri was able to prove to himself over the past year that he was indeed good enough to play college football.
He just needed an opportunity to get on the field and display his talent.
After spending the past calendar year at Denham Springs High developing into such a player, Nassri’s family is moving back to the Houston area after this semester and to Montgomery High School, where he previously attended school and played football.
This time, though, following graduation, he’ll return to Louisiana, where he’ll embark on his collegiate career after Nassri signed Wednesday with Southeastern Louisiana during a ceremony at the school on the first day of the NCAA’s early signing period.
“It was a growing experience to have been here,” Nassri said of Denham Springs High. “I’m thankful for being here, meeting the coaches and my friends. I loved it here.”
Without his family’s move after three years from Texas to Denham Springs, Nassri shutters to think where his future as a college player might be.
Without ever playing for the Yellow Jackets, a journey that began with offseason conditioning and through the spring, Nassri would have arguably never gotten on Southeastern’s radar as a prospective athlete.
“I just thank God because I didn’t think this was ever going to happen,” he acknowledged.
There was very little game film for Nassri to send to college coaches because as a junior at Montgomery High School, he played in a total of six games because of a pair of ankle injuries, registering 45 tackles.
The native of Victorville, Calif, whose family had also lived in Shreveport and Walker during his childhood, showed up at Denham Springs eager to make up for lost time with college recruiters.
Second-year coach Bill Conides helped to reassure Nassri – a 6-foot, 220-pounder – that he could still reach his objective of playing college football and that he would do everything he could to make that a reality.
“They’ve got a lot of high expectations for him just like we did 12 months ago,” Conides said of SLU. “I think they’re getting a very good, well-rounded student-athlete who I think’s going to be able to do good things from Day One.”
Second-year SLU coach Frank Scelfo said Nassri, an outside linebacker/safety, fits the type of player he’s trying to inject into a defense that needed to add athleticism and depth.
“He’s got a lot of flexibility,” Scelfo said. “He’s one of the ones I’m talking about that could be a safety, move down closer to the box or even bump inside to a nickel, something like that. He’s got that ability - athleticism. He’s just an aggressive player, so we liked that from Day One when we started watching him.”
Nassri developed an instant connection with SLU, especially with secondary coach/recruiting coordinator Tarence Calais, and committed to the Lions on July 18 after participating in their camp.
Five months later, Nassri eagerly turned that pledge into a signature amid his parents, family members, coaches and teammates.
“They trusted in me, so I trusted in them,” Nassri said. “It felt like home, they treated me like one of their own. I loved the coaching staff, coach Scelfo and coach Calais. Everything just made me feel like I was one of theirs.”
Nassri was further drawn to SLU after taking in a game – an impressive victory over McNeese State – before the prelude to signing day with his official visit to Hammond over the weekend.
The trip left no doubt where he was headed. Or in this case, where he would return after graduating from Montgomery High in the spring.
“The atmosphere was amazing, and it seemed like the whole town was there, it was a small college with a big-time atmosphere,” Nassri said of his game day experience. “On my (official) visit, the facilities were really nice, I met a few of the players and they answered the questions I had. Coach drew up some of the defenses and where they saw me playing, talked about how the defense was run.”
Nassri’s versatility may leave that for debate. He began the season playing linebacker for Denham Springs and was moved to nickelback in the latter half of the season and showed off tremendous cover skills against slot receivers.
He wound up with 81 tackles – including 54 solos – with eight tackles for loss, three sacks and registered two of his four interceptions in the Jackets’ 17-14 first-round playoff victory at Sam Houston.
“I love being anywhere they put me on the field,” said Nassri, a 3.6 student. “I remember as a little kid I saw everybody (college football games) on TV and thought I’d like to be like them one day.
“I worked by tail off and those injuries set me back,” Nassri said. “At one point I thought I maybe would never be able to play football again. But it happened, I worked hard and I’m back and a college football player.”