When De'Marieya Nelson steps out onto Frank Kush Field for Thursday night's game against Sacramento State, it will be the biggest moment of his career.
The Stockton, Calif. native will not only be making his Division I debut, but he will also be doing it against a team that he is very familiar with.
Nelson, the 6-foot-4 tight end, played junior college football at San Joaquin Delta College, which is just 50 miles away from the Sacramento State campus.
"Sacramento State will be the biggest game I've ever played in. The biggest crowd I've ever played in front of before that was at Camp T," Nelson said. "I know a couple of guys on their team. I'm originally from Stockton, which is pretty much still the valley. I'm going to go out there, take what the coaches say, and give my effort."
Last year, Sun Devil fans witnessed the emergence of Chris Coyle. He flourished under offensive coordinator Mike Norvell's system by playing the 3-back. Nelson hopes to be just as effective.
"I think I see myself fitting in well. In my junior college, I played the same 3-back position," Nelson said. "There are a lot of things I still have to learn. The biggest thing is my technique, getting the tempo down, and getting plays done."
Nelson said that Coyle has been a mentor to him, and has helped him adjust to the Sun Devils' scheme.
"It's great to have an older guy like that guide me through it. I mean, he helps me a lot during practice. After practice, if I have a question he's always there for me," Nelson said.
While the jump from junior college football to Pac-12 football has been difficult, Nelson believes that he is transitioning well.
"It's very different. It's very fast. This is a very disciplined program, but I think I'm molding to it," Nelson said. "I give my full effort, whether it's running the ball, catching the ball, or having to block."
Even though Nelson is officially listed as the backup to Coyle on the depth chart, head coach Todd Graham said that he will definitely contribute to the offense.
"He's definitely a guy that I consider a starter now," Graham said "De'Marieya will be a guy that will get significant time, no question about it."
The 3-back is a position that requires a player to be multifaceted, skilled and disciplined. Graham believes that Nelson fits that mold.
"De'Marieya is a weapon. We've got a whole bunch of weapons there and he's definitely one that adds a lot of dimensions to the run game as a blocker, as a runner, and as a guy throwing the football to," Graham said.
Following the Sacramento State game, the Sun Devils will face arguably one of the toughest four game stretches in college football as they battle Wisconsin, Stanford, USC and Notre Dame. Nelson said that he can't wait to play the cream of the crop.
"I'm looking forward to all of them. I'm looking forward to all the experiences, and to all the talent I get to go up against," Nelson said.