Derrick Webb, Staff Writer
CHILLICOTHE — Over the past three seasons, Southeastern fans have gotten used to seeing Mikey Nusser cross the goal line.
The Panthers’ bowling ball-ish running back has consistently punished defenders while bullying his way into the end zone. Last season, he rushed for 822 yards and 13 scores — on just 106 carries nonetheless, an average of 7.8 yards per tote.
Those numbers coupled with a team-high 82 tackles on the defensive side, where he was possibly even more imperative to his team.
The Panthers, as a whole, clinched a third straight playoff berth and won their second Gold Ball in the past three years. Over that time period, Southeastern has gone 29-6 and 19-2 in the SVC.
But this fall will be much, much different.
If the Panthers are to sustain their recent success, they’ll have to do so without head coach Evan Gallaugher and quarterback Lane Ruby. Gallaugher turned in his resignation after seven seasons and Ruby moved to the college ranks after an extraordinary career.
They’ll also have to do it after graduating a superb senior class, one that football coaches dream of coming through their program.
But if anyone can lead the charge back to the top, it’s Nusser, who has admittedly taken on a larger leadership role during the offseason.
“I just make sure my guys are there and they’re there to work hard,” Nusser said. “We have to put the work in [if we want to continue having success].”
It’s simple, really.
Nusser’s work ethic is second to none and, in large part, that’s true with Southeastern as a whole. That’s a trait that Gallaugher instilled in his players daily, but it’s one that new head coach Garrett Blair has focused on as well — even through life’s ever-changing guidelines.
“We have just been following the rules and doing as much as we can,” Nusser said. “It’s going great. Coach is doing an amazing job of explaining our jobs on and off the field. He’s just an amazing guy.”
Nusser, who says he’s worked most on improving his footwork and speed over the past few months, knows Blair will be calling his number on numerous occasions.
But he also knows his teammates will be looking to him for guidance when things get tough.
“We need to keep hitting the weight room and keep putting the work in,” Nusser said. “If we can do that, we’ll be fine.”
Southeastern is scheduled to begin its 2020 football season on Aug. 28 at Northwest.
The Panthers are sure to have a different look, you’ll hear new names being called, and Nusser will be at the forefront of that movement.
But the team’s values haven’t changed.
Those have been passed down from older generations. Now, it’s Nusser who carries the torch.
“The heart is something nobody sees just yet,” Nusser said. “When I say ‘heart,’ I’m saying that’s all these guys have. We may not be the biggest or the strongest, but we have guys that have heart, and that’s all you need.”