• Murphy's Micah Nelson (left) and Hunter Shope are all smiles Wednesday morning, after signing to play college football at respective schools Western Carolina University and UNC. Photo by Kevin Hensley
    Murphy's Micah Nelson (left) and Hunter Shope are all smiles Wednesday morning, after signing to play college football at respective schools Western Carolina University and UNC. Photo by Kevin Hensley

Murphy's Shope, Nelson make college football plans

    Murphy – National Signing Day proved to be special for two Murphy High School football standouts.
    Both Hunter Shope and Micah Nelson signed to play college football Wednesday morning, with Shope picking UNC and Nelson opting to suit up for Western Carolina University.
    
Shope
    Along with Nelson, Shope has been a member of Murphy’s two most recent 1A state championship teams. He always wanted to attend UNC, but he also wanted to play college football.
    Until last week, the idea of pairing his two desires seemed nothing but a dream. Now, the dream has came true.
    “It’s crazy,” Shope said. “Since I was a little kid, I wanted to play college football. I didn’t expect this at all. It’s a big deal for me.”
    North Carolina schools Lenoir-Rhyne and Western Carolina, as well as Emory & Henry, Bates College (Lewiston, Maine) and Hamilton College (Clinton, Ny.) reached out to Shope, before UNC and the University of South Carolina came knocking last week. When weighing the options, the decision was easy.
    “I didn’t know UNC was going to show up and offer me something,” Shope said. “I’d applied and be accepted and that’s where I was deadset on going, so this validated it for me. It’s huge.”
    A baseball player through middle school, a member of Murphy’s golf team and a current basketball player, Shope had football in his blood from birth. His father James played on some of Murphy’s successful programs in the 1980s.
    “I fell in love with football the first time I ever practiced in rec league,” Shope said. “The physicality of it, the grind it took and the work, I couldn’t help but fall in love with it.”
    Shope finished his senior year with 106 tackles, 54 assists and seven sacks, with his work earning him Lineman of the Year honors from the Smoky Mountain Conference, as well as a spot on the North Carolina Border Bowl team.
    At UNC, Shope plans to major in either exercise physiology or kinesiology, which he will use to pursue a career in corrective muscle therapy.

Nelson
    Switching to the starting quarterback role for his senior year after building a reputation as a dangerous receiver, Nelson is thankful for his time and success with Murphy. Obviously, the two state titles stick out.
    “It’s awesome to think that I contributed to that,” Nelson said.
    Nelson will be joining Western Carolina University as a preferred walk-on, the same method that drew Joey Curry to the Catamounts just last year.
    “It feels awesome,” Nelson said. “I went up there about three times in the regular season and knew it was a special place and somewhere I wanted to play.”
    Schools like the University of Mount Union (Alliance, Ohio), N.C. State and East Carolina University all expressed interest in the versatile athlete, but the Catamounts was where Nelson felt the most at home.
    “There were a lot of schools that reached out, some close and some far away, so it was definitely different ends of the spectrum,” Nelson said. “But Western really sells a ‘family environment’ when you’re on campus and it definitely lives up to that. Everyone is very nice to you.”
    As with Shope, Nelson has dabbled in other sports while growing up. Baseball, basketball and track have enjoyed his talents, but Nelson found that football came easy.
    “When I started playing baseball, I thought that was going to be my sport,” Nelson said. “But when I started football, I found that it came to me a lot easier. Having the influence of my dad (Thomas Nelson, Murphy’s current defensive coordinator) and Coach (Joseph) Watson (the Bulldogs’ current offensive coordinator), those big-time people in my life, set me on my way.”
    Nelson wants to pursue a degree in education, and plans to both teach and coach after graduation.

The Cherokee Scout

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