Healthy once more, he's ready to break out

Penns Grove's Nick Elmer suffered a severe ankle sprain in the third game last season and was hobbled for the remainder of the year as the team finished 7-4. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer
Penns Grove's Nick Elmer suffered a severe ankle sprain in the third game last season and was hobbled for the remainder of the year as the team finished 7-4. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

Penns Grove QB Nick Elmer is eager to play.

Posted: September 01, 2012

Even if he had been healthy as a junior, put up big statistics, and led his team deep into the playoffs, Nick Elmer still would be anticipating his senior season at Penns Grove.

"Ever since we were little, people have been saying, 'That's the team. That's the team,' " Elmer said, referring to his senior class. "People always have been saying this was going to be a special team."

Most seniors are motivated to make the most of their final season. Elmer has an extra edge because of the frustration of his junior year.

Elmer suffered a severe ankle sprain in the third game of the season. He sat out two games and was hobbled the rest of the way, as a season that began with a bang ended in disappointment for the Red Devils.

As a sophomore, Elmer had thrown 22 touchdown passes for a team that went 8-1. As a junior, Elmer threw 10 touchdown passes as Penns Grove slumped to a 7-4 finish that hardly reflected the expectations created on opening day.

"We just kind of let it get away from us," Elmer said. "It was such a disappointment for me, because junior year is such an important year. I felt like I didn't do my job. I felt like I let the team down."

Although he stands just 5-foot-8, Elmer is 190 pounds. He's a strong runner with a good arm and a strong feel for playing quarterback.

Elmer also is a top wrestler who won 46 matches and finished third in Region 8 at 170 pounds last season.

But Penns Grove coach Kemp Carr said Elmer's strongest suit is his leadership ability.

"His leadership is phenomenal," Carr said. "He's got the complete process down. It's contagious with this group. He's got the keys to the Bentley for this team."

Elmer is a top student with a 4.0 grade-point average. He ranks second in his class.

Carr thinks Elmer can play defensive back at the Patriot League level in college. Elmer also has interest in attending an Ivy league school and playing at that level.

Although Elmer considers football his No. 1 sport, he has drawn recruiting interest from schools such as Drexel and Rider for wrestling.

"There's not a doubt in my mind he could play at a Bucknell, a Lafayette, a Colgate," Carr said. "He's a good athlete. He's tough. He's 193 pounds. He knows the game. He's just a special kid. I wish I had 100 of him all day long."

Elmer was on the verge of recognition as one of the top quarterbacks in South Jersey after his sophomore season. But he felt as if he ducked "under the radar" as a junior.

"My sophomore year, I did really well, but last year, I felt like that ankle injury just crippled me for the whole year," Elmer said. "This year, I'm coming back 20 times harder, just trying to get ready to have the best year I can.

"I want to prove that I'm one of the elite players in South Jersey."

With Elmer, wide receiver Jabrail Murray, and two-way lineman Sam Harvey leading a stacked senior class, Penns Grove is one of the favorites in the West Jersey Football League Diamond Division, along with archrival Glassboro - the Red Devils' opening-night opponent.

Last year, Penns Grove beat Glassboro, 54-0, on opening day. But Elmer was hurt two weeks later against Woodstown, and the Red Devils were never the same.

Meanwhile, Glassboro went on to win its fourth South Jersey Group 1 title in the last five years.

"That really hurt," Elmer said. "This year, a South Jersey Group 1 title is at the top of our list.

"In eighth grade, we lost to Gibbstown right before the championship and we were like, 'Man, we're never losing again. We're going to be seniors before we know it.'

"Now it's senior year already. It's crazy. We're going to prove this year that we have a special team."


Contact Phil Anastasia

at 856-779-3223, panastasia@phillynews.com, or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter. Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

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