By Rubin E. Grant
In the midst of their worst loss of the season, the John Carroll Catholic Cavaliers witnessed the making of a quarterback.
John Carroll suffered a 54-0 loss at Parker on Sept. 13 in its fourth game, but sophomore quarterback Nicholas Sellers completed 14 of 30 passes for 128 yards and displayed resiliency under pressure.
“It was raining and even though we didn’t score, he did a good job of staying in the pocket and making throws,” John Carroll coach Logan Colafrancesco said. “Early in the year he was getting hit a lot because we had only one experienced lineman back from last year. We were starting two freshmen and two juniors who had never played so they might as have been freshmen, too.”
Sellers, who recently turned 16, steadily improved the rest of the season. He was one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dismal season for the Cavaliers, who finished 1-9.
In a recent three-game stretch against Woodlawn, Fultondale and Briarwood, Sellers threw for 853 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions. He had 300-yard passing games against Fultondale, when he completed 25 of 46 passes for 307 yards, and Briarwood, when he completed 27 of 45 passes for 300 yards.
He finished the season with 136 completions in 267 attempts for 1,314 yards and nine touchdowns with nine interceptions.
“I think he got better as the season went along under some tough circumstances,” Colafrancesco said. “We were not all that good up front and we didn’t have very many playmakers. He did a good job to make the best of the situation.
“I told him I knew it was frustrating, but he’d be a better person for it. I think he understands that.”
Even though he was a sophomore, Sellers was one of the team leaders.
“After week 3, we had a lot of guys who were getting hurt and a lot of other leaders needed to step up,” Sellers said. “Since I’m the quarterback, I needed to be one of the leaders.”
The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Sellers decided to let his natural ability take over. During the spring and summer, he worked on a drill to take slide steps and step into the pocket, so it would become second nature to him.
“We tell our players to play without thinking and do things instinctively,” Colafrancesco said. “He did a great job of ad-libbing and making plays. He threw a touchdown against Briarwood where he stepped up in the pocket and had to ad lib.”
Sellers has been a quarterback since he started playing football in the first grade, beginning under the tutelage of his dad, Nick Sellers. Nick Sellers had played quarterback at the University of Pacific before it shut down its football program in 1995.
“It’s helped me so much over the years with my dad being a former quarterback,” the younger Sellers said. “He’s told me a quarterback just can’t be a player, but has to be a leader. I’m trying to be a leader like my dad was.”
Colafrancesco believes Nicholas Sellers will develop into a college quarterback, too.
“He’s maturing both physically and mentally,” Colafrancesco said. “There’s no doubt he’ll be able to play in college. Of course, everybody wants quarterbacks to be 6-2 or 6-3, but height doesn’t matter if you’re being a good leader and a good teammate and show toughness.
“I think he has a bright future. Where he plays in college doesn’t matter because he’ll be able to contribute wherever he goes.”
Unfortunately for Colafrancesco, he won’t get to coach Sellers during his final two seasons in high school. Sellers’ dad was named vice president of Alabama Power’s Mobile Division last summer, so Nicholas Sellers will be transferring to a school in Mobile.
“I’m going to miss his thirst for the game, his knowledge and, heck, I’m going to miss his arm,” Colafrancesco said with a laugh. “I’ve gotten close to his family, so I’m happy for him. I think he’ll do a good job wherever he ends up.”
Sellers is considering McGill-Toolen, UMS-Wright and St. Paul’s.
“All three are great schools,” Sellers said, “but it will be a big change.”