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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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UF's Nelson hopes Orlando becomes Hit City tonight
Awards Show: In the Florida meeting room, they call it "Hit City" and Reggie Nelson is a regular in that town.
By ANTONYA ENGLISH
Published December 7, 2006
GAINESVILLE - In the Florida meeting room, they call it "Hit City" and Reggie Nelson is a regular in that town.
The junior cornerback, was a mainstay on Florida's highlight reels every Monday - the day the players gathered throughout the regular season to watch the week's best hits from the previous Saturday's game.
"Reggie Nelson is the most frequent person on Hit City," safety Ryan Smith said. "He can move, once he gets moving and he is strong and fast. That mixture is Reggie Nelson."
At 6 feet 1, 195 pounds, Nelson isn't the biggest or strongest player, but teammates say he's never one to shy away from a big hit. He also has six interceptions.
Those are a few of the reasons Nelson will be in Orlando tonight at the Home Depot College Awards. He is one of three finalists for the Thorpe Award, honoring the nation's top defensive back. The other finalists are Aaron Ross of Texas and Michigan's Leon Hall.
"I just love to play," Nelson said. "If I get a big hit, I get a big hit; if I don't, oh well, I just try to come out next week and practice even harder to get one."
The awards have 18 categories, and finalists for 10 of the awards will be in attendance for tonight's live announcement, along with recipients of Disney's Wide World of Sports Spirit Award, Coach of the Year Award, the National College Football Awards Association Contribution to College Football Award and student-athletes selected to the Walter Camp All-America Team.
The show will be hosted by ESPN's Chris Fowler, Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit. New will be the recognition of four awards: Rotary Lombardi Award outstanding lineman; Bronko Nagurski Trophy (outstanding defensive player); John Mackey Award (tight end), and Rimington Trophy (outstanding center). The Nagurski was already announced, and Michigan defensive end LaMarr Woodley won the Lombardi on Wednesday night.
Nelson, nicknamed "The Eraser" by coach Urban Meyer, has had a busy week. He was in Charlotte, N.C., being honored with four other finalists for the Nagurski Trophy. Nelson will remain in Orlando on Friday to tape the Football Writers Association of America/ESPN All-America Show, which will be broadcast at 1 p.m. Saturday on Ch. 28.
After Florida's 21-14 win over Florida State, UF safeties coach Doc Holliday summed up Nelson's season in one sentence.
"If Reggie Nelson doesn't win that Thorpe Award, something's wrong," he said.