College football: Catawba introduces new offensive line coach Nygel Pearson

Published 11:00 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2017

By Mike London

SALISBURY — The youngest fan at Catawba’s football season opener on Thursday night probably will be 5-month-old Grayson Pearson.

“We’ll get him all decked out in red and blue and we’ll hope he can make it through a half of football,” said Nygel Pearson,  Grayson’s father and Catawba’s new offensive line coach and running game coordinator. “After that, his mom or his grandmother probably will get him to the house.”

Catawba head coach Curtis Walker made two notable staff additions since last season. There’s new cornerbacks coach Marco Butler, and there’s Pearson, a towering 31-year-old with a laugh like Santa Claus.

Pearson was hired to replace Brian Hinson, who took the Salisbury High head coaching job. After spending a serious chunk of his life at South Carolina State, as both a player and coach, Pearson broke the news to his players back in the spring that he was coming to Catawba.

“When you play and coach at one place as many years as I did, sometimes you need to change your stripes and experience something new,” Pearson said. “My wife (Majoria) was still in the hospital after delivering Grayson when I told her that we were heading to Salisbury.”

In high school, Pearson played at Darlington High, about 10 miles from Florence. He made all-star teams. He was a good enough player to be offered by Central Florida and a sharp enough student to be offered by Princeton. He wanted to stick closer to his family and girlfriend, though, so he headed 90 minutes south to Orangeburg to play for South Carolina State.

At his peak  in college, Pearson was a 6-foot-6, 305-pound bulldozer. He made second team All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference as a senior in 2008. He also continued to thrive as a scholar. He was a semifinalist for the Draddy Award that goes to college football’s top student-athlete.

Pearson went into high school coaching and teaching and worked two years as offensive coordinator and offensive line coach at Fairfield Central High School in Winnsboro, S.C, north of Columbia.

“Our team played against (Rock Hill South Pointe’s) Jadeveon Clowney,” said Pearson, shaking his head at the unpleasant memory.

No doubt that experience helped Pearson make the decision to switch to college coaching. In 2010, he returned to South Carolina State. He coached tight ends first, then fullbacks, then the offensive line.

As you might expect, Pearson has Javon Hargrave stories from their days together at South Carolina State. Hargrave, a defensive lineman from North Rowan High, was a two-time national defensive player of the year for the FCS division while he was at South Carolina State. That was before he was drafted by the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“What I remember about Hargrave is that sometimes we’d have to take him out of scrimmages, so our offense could get some work in,” Pearson said with a laugh. “He had that big hips and big butt, but he was so quick. He was unblockable. The biggest difference I can see so far between FCS and Division II is in the defensive linemen. Hopefully, Catawba won’t have to play against anyone like Hargrave.”

In June of 2013, Pearson married Majoria Addison. They had dated through high school and college.

In 2014, Pearson finished work on his masters degree in secondary education.

“Then in 2015, I became South Carolina State’s offensive coordinator for the second half of the season,” Pearson said. “We had some success and that was a good experience.”

Pearson knew Walker and some of the Catawba staffers well. He was familiar with Catawba when the opportunity for a career move came knocking.

“When I was in high school, Coach Walker was at Coastal Carolina and Coastal  was one of the schools that recruited me,” Pearson said. “So, I’ve known some of these guys for years.”

Pearson and his wife, who was hired an assistant principal at Koontz Elementary School in Salisbury, are enjoying the transition to life in Salisbury. They’ve found there’s more to do in Salisbury than Orangeburg.

As far as Pearson’s first Catawba offensive line, it should be a pretty good one. Quinzavious Sands, an All-SAC performer, is back at left guard. Left tackle Brandon Floyd is talented enough that Pearson tried to recruit him for South Carolina State. All five projected starters for the Indians, plus some of the backups, are familiar names. Catawba won’t have to rely on any true freshmen and only one redshirt freshman is on the two-deep chart for the o-line.

Pearson’s parents will be making the trip up Highway 52 from Darlington to watch their son’s debut as a Catawba coach, and a lot of people are expected to join them at Shuford Stadium. The Indians kick off at 7 p.m. against St. Augustine’s.

“Season opener on a Thursday under the lights — it doesn’t get any better than that,” Pearson said.