Swatting footballs zipped to some of the Cascade Conference’s best receivers was a simple thing for Nick French.
The tricky part was that the junior safety for South Whidbey’s football team played with his left hand in a cast for most of the season. And more than just bat the ball down, French intercepted four passes with his hand looking more Lego-man than ball-hawk.
Plays like that etched French’s name and jersey number (19) in the minds of Cascade Conference coaches this season and earned him a spot on the all-conference, first-team defense.
“I thought it was cool because other coaches nominated me, not my coach,” French said.
“It kind of settled in the bread basket, I guess.”
The hand injury sustained during the game against Archbishop Murphy knocked French out of the starting quarterback spot. But not for long. Backup Parker Collins suffered an injury to his throwing hand, and French was called back to run the Falcons’ offense.
“He doesn’t look that quick, but the next thing he’s running past you,” said Falcon co-head coach Mark Hodson.
Playing quarterback on offense and safety on defense was a perfect union. As a tall passer, French understands what throwing teams like King’s and Lakewood aimed for against South Whidbey. As an option runner, French knew when to step up from coverage and lay a hit on a back.
More than intercepting passes, French likes tackling. At 6-2, French is a tall safety, and his build allowed the Falcon coaches to bring him up to the line for run defense. And French loved it.
“When you stop a guy at the line as a safety, you have shutdown defense,” he said.
Recently, French turned his attention from the field to the hardwood. He returned to the Falcon basketball program and won a starting spot as a forward. Before the school entered its winter break, French had recorded back-to-back 20-point games.
Pounding the post for rebounds and layups is all part of French’s main aim: to improve himself for football. In the process, he may be improving one part of his overall game his coaches praise — teamwork.
“We don’t have a lot of height, so they needed someone to do the dirty work down low,” French said.