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John Von Nessen: From HS Football to College Lacrosse and Back…

By: Paul Cohen


Penn State
National Scouting Combine

John Von Nessen spends countless hours training in Martinsville, New Jersey at the TEST Football Academy with former New York Giant quarterback, Scott Bruner. Like many others, he is on a quest to play the game he loves professionally: American football. However, Von Nessen’s story leading up to his point is unique for someone with professional football aspirations.
Von Nessen comes from a football family. His uncle played four years at Boston College and was a teammate of Doug Flutie during the “Hail Mary Game” while his father intended to play college football before suffering an injury that ended his playing career. The strong football culture rubbed off on John, who has been playing the game since the 1st grade. However, football was not his only passion as John has also been playing lacrosse since the 2nd grade.
John Von Nessen
Penn State Lacrosse
When Von Nessen went on to play at Hillsborough High School, he continued his participation in both sports and was even the starting quarterback for his last three years. As a talented multi-sport athlete, John received scholarship offers from a wide array of schools. For lacrosse, he was recruited by Notre Dame, Army, Navy, and Penn State while Columbia, Albany, Princeton, and Air Force provided his football offers.
“There’s been a hole in my heart ever since football hasn’t been in it”
All his life John had played both sports so he planned to continue that by accepting Penn State’s lacrosse offer and then walking on to join the football team. However, top quarterback recruit Christian Hackenberg, who is now playing in the NFL for the New York Jets, had just committed to Penn State. Also, the lacrosse scholarship Von Nessen had received would be placed in jeopardy if he had begun playing football. With the school’s quarterback situation all but solidified and his scholarship in danger, Von Nessen fully committed his efforts to lacrosse.

After graduating from Penn State, Von Nessen went on to work at his girlfriend’s family’s restaurant to scrap for money until he figured out his next move. He would then go on to work a full time sales job in New York City. However, it did not take long for him to realize his life was missing something. “Football was always stuck in my mind,” says Von Nessen who would eventually choose to leave his job, despite his need for financial stability, to commit full time to football training and pursuing a playing career. John’s support system has been ideal since the decision. His family’s football past has provided him with the resources and contacts to properly prepare for future opportunities, including the aforementioned TEST Football Academy that has trained several famous NFL players.

He recently had a tryout with the Philadelphia Soul of the Arena Football League that went well but Von Nessen is looking for an even better opportunity. His goal is to play in the NFL but he understands the uphill battle he must fight because of his lack of collegiate play so he remains open to all options. John wishes he had the college experience but would not have done anything different. Lacrosse kept him healthy and in shape while still providing explosive training that translates well to football.

In order to gain the film many of his competitors have over him, Von Nessen intends to participate in a variety of combines and pro days including Beyond Sports Network’s National Scouting Combine in March. At this point, he believes “it’s just about being seen and showing off my skills.”
John’s dedication to football is evident in his decision to give up a secure job despite college loans needing to be paid off. “There’s been a hole in my heart ever since football hasn’t been in it,” says Von Nessen about his future. He believes he is ready to play for a team and it will show in the upcoming combines. Regarding what he would bring to a team willing to take a chance on him, John says, “my whole heart would be in it, no lack of effort on any day.” His future is cloudy but John remains optimistic about fulfilling his dreams.