By LARRY VAUGHT
Could Kentucky look overseas again to add a player to its 2021 recruiting class?
All-American punter Max Duffy came to Kentucky from Australia as a sophomore and has been sensational. West Virginia signed cornerback Jairo Faverus of the Netherlands in December and has a commitment from Swedish tight end Victor Wikstrom for next year.
Now Kentucky might be looking at 6-1, 220-pound linebacker Alexander Nordgren of Sollentuna, Sweden, who is regarded as one of the top prospects in Europe because of his size and speed.
“It is still quite early in the process. I’ve talked with a few coaches here and there, but hopefully in the future I will expand my number of contacts more and the relationships will get better,” Nordgren, who did not want to say which schools had reached out to him, said.
Nordgren started playing football about six years ago. He noted about 15 years ago football was “quite big” in Sweden before losing momentum but is now getting more attention. He was on the team that won the silver medal in the under 19 European Championships.
“At the age of 11 me and my dad went to my first football practice,” Nordgren said. “I was able to give one of the guys a really hard hit.”
He was a former soccer player and was not sure how that would go over.
“Instead, the trainer shouted, ‘Wow? Great hit Alex.’ I immediately felt that this is my sport,” Nordgren said.
He’s now attending a school funded by the National Sports Association with 29 other athletes ages 16-19 that he compares to a mini college campus where he lives to train and study and then comes home on weekends.
“I love to train and compete and I am really eager on working on all the ‘small’ details to try to reach perfection. I have a really hard time giving up. I believe that if you continue to try and develop yourself and try to take different angles to approach your tasks, it will sooner or later lead to you accomplishing your goal. If you ask my family or friends they will probably say that my drive, effort and passion to improve myself is what separates me from others,” he said.
He tried ice hockey and then basketball at age 9 and played until quitting one year ago to devote his time to football where he has now played almost every position. He plays linebacker and special teams for the national team and his school games, but he’s been used at quarterback, running back and receiver in club games.
He watches a lot of game tape to help him recognize what the offense might do.
“Being able to read and stop the opponent is the best feeling. A big hit is cool, but the fewer inches the opponents get, the better. I am usually good in reading/creating havoc/disruption and bringing down the opponent and I’m a good sideline to sideline tackler,” Nordgren said.
He knows earning a Division I scholarship is not easy based on what he saw when he got invited to the Bret Cooper Junior All-American Bowl in Dallas after his 2015 season.
“What a difference in power and speed. Me and my dad got shocked. It was really an awakening call,” Nordgren said of the bowl experience. “I decided when I came home that I really need to step up in every aspect. I started to work out early in the mornings before school and in the evenings.”
He searched for training tips, best ways to recover and what he should eat anywhere he could find them, including YouTube.
“My dad wanted to send me to IMG (Academy) in Bradenton, Fla., the summer of 2016, but I said no, ‘I need on more year of training.’ I went there summer of 2017 instead. I had a great time there and I really impressed the coaches,” Nordgren said.
He knows it won’t be easy to show Division I coaches he can produce for them. It’s also an eight-hour flight from Sweden to the United States but he’ll be back in the USA in June to attend various Division I summer camps.
“I am blessed. My mom is really supportive. She helps me with everything and supports me through all the tough times life can throw at you. My dad has a really competitive spirit with lots of focus on the details and always tries different angles to achieve the goal.He has been my best workout partner and he pushes me every day,” Nordgren said.
Duffy was trimming trees before the got his chance to play at Kentucky. Nordgren likes to spend time in the wilderness, too. “I like fishing, hiking, camping. It brings a form of calm to me that really helps with clearing out my mind and relaxing from all the stress the hours of training puts on my body,” he said.
So maybe it is a long shot he will stay on UK’s recruiting radar with the way the Cats have recruited, or maybe he’ll be the next hidden gem that Vince Marrow and UK coaches find.