The energy in his voice is palpable when Nick Sturm speaks about what’s coming on Thursday.
All his life, this West Hall High senior has rooted for the Atlanta Falcons.
And for a brief moment, Sturm’s going to be the center of attention at Mercedes-Benz Stadium later this week in Atlanta.
As one of seven finalists for the Atlanta Falcons’ High School Man of the Year Award, the 17-year-old will be honored before kickoff between Thursday’s game between the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots.
While Sturm is in attendance with his parents, Tim and Christie, and younger brother Brett, he’s going to meet as many pro players, as possible, and relish the sensory overload standing on Atlanta Falcons’ home field.
“It feels like I’ve won the lottery,” said Sturm, who carries a 4.2 GPA and was a four-year starter in football for the Spartans.
In 2021, the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Sturm flourished at quarterback for West Hall, throwing for more than 1,000 yards, rushing for 250 yards and scored a combined 11 touchdowns.
Before a packed house in Atlanta, fans will be able to see a promotional reel about Sturm, shot just last week by the Atlanta Falcons, for the honors student who was a standout at tight end/defensive end his first three years with the Spartans.
Each home game this season, the Atlanta Falcons will roll out the red carpet for a different one of the nominees, who went through a thorough screening process among candidates from the entire state.
Once the season is finished, the organization will select a winner and bestow what is likely to be lavish prizes.
This is only the second season that the Atlanta Falcons have made this distinction, which is modeled after the Walter Peyton Man of the Year Award, the franchise’s website says.
In 2020, South Gwinnett High junior Jalavis Wilson won the first-ever Atlanta Falcons High School Man of the Year Award.
Even though there’s no indication who will win it this season, Sturm’s mother, Christie, is in awe of having her son selected as a finalist.
“This is such an honor,” Christie said. “It’s something that I’ve not really totally processed completely yet.”
West Hall head coach Krofton Montgomery got the ball rolling for Sturm in the preseason, nominating his four-year starter for the award.
Sturm’s unique blend of athletic achievement and academic success made it a no-brainer for the fourth-year West Hall coach.
“It’s an easy sell when you’re telling the truth,” Montgomery said.
Sturm was a force on both sides of the football field for the Spartans, and just as talented at third base and pitching on the baseball diamond.
However, West Hall’s elite athlete is set apart by his academic achievement, ranking in the top 20 of his senior class.
“Nick’s one of the hardest workers and has impeccable character,” Montgomery said. “He’s as good as they get.”
Sturm is getting a jump on college courses through the Ivester Early College program with Lanier Tech.
At West Hall, Sturm is part of the National Honor Society and Beta Club.
During the school year, his days are packed from sunrise to sundown.
Sturm starts the day with college classes, then returns to West Hall for his weight training period.
Then, Sturm returns to the campus for the Ivester Early College in Oakwood for another block of courses, before his final classes of the day at West Hall.
Only after that does he step on the field for sports.
“My parents have instilled in me all my life to make good grades before getting to play sports,” Sturm said.
Sturm enjoyed playing quarterback his senior season for the Spartans and was never afraid to lower his pads and run with the ball.
However, his greatest impact was on the defensive side of the ball, recording about 90 tackles in 2019 and had 70 stops in 2020.
According to Montgomery, Sturm is the kind of player who is always on the field and rarely requires a break.
“He’ll get a shot of water and be right back on the field,” Montgomery said. “Nick’s a different breed.”
When Sturm was plugged into the starting quarterback position in 2021, he was pulled back on many of his special teams assignments and cut his snaps on defense.
However, he was more than willing to do whatever the coaching staff felt gave the Spartans the best chance of winning.
“I loved the feel of throwing a touchdown or running someone over,” Sturm said.
Since Sturm has excelled in academics and athletics, he’s likely to have various opportunities to compete at the next level.
However, he said, nothing compares to playing football.
“There’s nothing like being part of a brotherhood,” Sturm said. “It’s a way of becoming a man.”