By: Nate Schneider
Nolan Bird a model of consistency for Grand Ledge football
Nolan Bird was only a youngster when he had a chance to meet one of college football’s all-time great players – former University of Florida two-time BCS national champion and Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Tim Tebow.
Many years before Bird would emerge as a three-year starting quarterback at Grand Ledge, his father Matt took him to a Florida practice in 2009 when Tebow was a senior and putting the final touches on a remarkable career.
Matt Bird, the head coach at Grand Ledge, did not realize at the time how much his son was taking in despite being in the middle stages of elementary school.
“Sitting back and watching your little guy run around with the Heisman Trophy winner – you realize now how much he took in from some pretty amazing individuals,” Coach Bird said. “It was an encounter that I didn’t think he was paying attention to, but now you see much rubbed off on him in how you handle playing the position. It’s about being in control of your head and persona. I didn’t realize how much he was a sponge in those situations and embraced that.”
Nolan inherited a senior-laden team in 2015 as a sophomore and showed he had the ability to be a game-changer right from the start, helping lead the way to a 12-1 record and a Division 1 state semifinals appearance where the Comets lost 48-21 to Romeo.
Bird guided Grand Ledge to 478 points as a sophomore, a school record. He began getting serious recruiting inquiries as a freshman, even receiving a phone call from former LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
With so much graduating from the 2015 roster, last year took a bit of a downturn as the Comets slipped to a still very respectable 7-3 and scored 26.1 points per contest.
“His sophomore year there was so much focus on him being comfortable,” Coach Bird explained. “We had a great group of seniors around him, so we really enjoyed it. His junior year, may have made the mistake in putting too much pressure on him. Now we’re taking a step back and enjoying it more again. We have a big crop of seniors again who can take on some of those leadership responsibilities so we don’t have to put so much on Nolan.”
Coach Bird is not taking anything for granted in having the chance to coach his son at the prep level for several years.
“The best part is that I get to play catch with my son every day at practice,” Matt Bird beamed. “How cool is that as a dad? That’s been a really special thing we’ve really enjoyed in having all this extra time to spend around each other.”
Grand Ledge is 4-1 this year after fending off visiting previously unbeaten Okemos by a count of 28-20 on September 23. Bird threw the go-ahead touchdown pass a 13-yard strike to tight end Matt Vary midway through the third quarter.
The Comets have also posted wins this season against Hudsonville (41-14), East Lansing (48-13) and Lansing Sexton (27-14) while suffering their lone defeat versus always-tough DeWitt (14-7).
Nolan, listed at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds, has received moderate interest from Michigan and Michigan State along with out-of-state schools such as LSU and Pittsburgh. But he also has considerable interest from Division II powerhouse Ferris State and plenty of other programs.
As of now, he has not made a decision as to where he will attend school next year.
“He hates it,” Coach Bird added. “He says, ‘This is ridiculous.’ And I tell him, ‘It’s just business, bud.’
Whichever college football program lands Nolan Bird will get a player who has shown to be a proven winner in his high school career and has the ability with his arm plus overall athletic ability to succeed at the next level.
Plus, meeting Tebow as a kid surely couldn’t have hurt.