Ryan Nehlen's (Im)Perfect Touchdown Catch - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Ryan Nehlen's (Im)Perfect Touchdown Catch


It was just his second reception as a Mountaineer and the first time he had caught one beyond the goal line. Ryan Nehlen scored a touchdown in Morgantown against the team his grandfather coached at prior to his Hall of Fame career at West Virginia University.

The scene was perfect, aside from the driving rain, and the celebration on the sideline was something Nehlen had waited quite some time for. And yet, something was missing.

His father.

Dan Nehlen, WVU's equipment manager and Ryan's father, had just gone into the Milan Puskar Center moments before his son's first score. Throughout the game, he was grabbing new, dry towels for the players on the sideline and just happened to be doing so with 12 minutes and 38 seconds left in the second quarter.

"At halftime [Holgorsen] said, ‘First career touchdown.' I said, ‘I was inside, but if I was out there he probably would have dropped it,'" Dan laughs.

"When I got to the sideline, everyone was like, ‘He's inside setting up for halftime,'" says Ryan.

When I saw Dan roaming the sidelines a little later, I asked him if he really did miss the touchdown, and he confirmed it. I told him he needed to make sure Ryan scored once more so he could catch it. Ryan had another chance, but Paul Millard overthrew him in the end zone.

He certainly would have rather seen it happen live, but Dan is still thrilled that his son pulled off his first career touchdown against Bowling Green.

"That's pretty satisfying, really," says Dan. "To have a Nehlen catch a touchdown pass against my dad's alma mater and all that kind of thing, that's pretty neat, no doubt."

"I think it was the perfect day," Ryan said. "Coming in, I had a good week of practice and I thought today might be the day. I was happy."

Dan, who was on his way back home when reached by phone after the game, is looking forward to many more touchdowns from Ryan during Big East play.

"It's kind of like the monkey off the back," he said. "It's just nice to get that and I'm excited for him and hopefully there will be a few more down the road, that's for sure."

Having worked for Dan for four years as a student manager, I'm completely aware of just how much this milestone means to him. He would come into the equipment room Saturday mornings after catching his son's University High game the night before and run down his stats and what he can improve on. He did the same with basketball season.

Now he's rattling off stats that his son is accomplishing at his own alma mater. It's currently two catches for 28 yards and a touchdown…. And counting.  

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