When the phone rings at midnight, it is almost never a good thing.
It's a double whammy when that phone call happens to come from a police officer. In one case, however, Amboy football coach Gary Jones was happy to receive one particular call.
On Tuesday, Aug. 7, on the eve of the beginning of football practice, Jones received a call from Illinois State Trooper David Nelson, father of Clippers halfback Cooper Nelson. The Nelsons used to live in Amboy, but had moved to Galena before Cooper's junior year.
"I got a phone call at 12 o'clock at night from the Illinois State Police," Jones said. "I'm going, 'Oh my God, what did I do? I was home. What did I do wrong?' His father works for the Illinois State Police, and he called down to the Amboy police department to get my phone number. He said they were moving back. That was Tuesday night and practice started Wednesday."
David and Laura Nelson have two homes, in Amboy and Galena. They lived in Amboy when Laura was the Amboy High School superintendent when Cooper was a sophomore. She took a job as a professor at Wisconsin-Platteville before Cooper's junior year, and the family moved to Galena.
When Laura accepted another job before the current school year as superintendent of an elementary school in Steward, just outside of Rochelle, it was back to the home in Amboy.
Cooper registered for school the morning of two-a-day practices on Aug. 8, and was on the practice field that afternoon. He tried to keep it hush-hush that he was returning.
"I just showed up," Nelson said, "and everybody was like, 'Oh, he's back.' "
Nelson is accustomed to a heavy workload in the backfield. He was the primary ball carrier for a 7-2 Amboy fresh-soph team in 2010, then he rushed 97 times for 592 yards and seven TDs for a 5-4 Galena squad a year ago.
This season, the 5-foot-8, 170-pound Nelson shares duties with fellow halfback Spencer Johnson, and they have emerged as an effective tandem. Nelson has 54 carries for 533 yards, while Johnson has 74 rushes for 518 yards.
"You really can't key one side of that or the other," Jones said. "When we run out of the I-Formation, we can alternate those guys. It's been a big plus for us. Now we've got two backs to run either direction out of."
Nelson likes sharing the backfield with Johnson, and he's enjoying being a part of a football team that has already sewn up a spot in the postseason. It's been a comfortable fit, on and off the football field.
"I left mostly because I just like Amboy more," Nelson said. "It's the whole school district. It wasn't just football, even though Amboy's very successful in football and I did miss my old teammates. It's just good to be back."
St. Bede at Amboy
When: 7:30 Friday
Where: The Harbor
Radio: 101.7 FM