NU quarterback grows through year of adversity |

NU quarterback grows through year of adversity

This was not the way it was supposed to be. He surely did not expect the script to play out this way.

After all, this was to be a season of learning. It was a season to really get to know the offense. It was a time to work on things … technique, mechanics, game plans, play execution. As a back-up to Steele Jantz, he had the privilege of learning from an experienced, precise, prepared quarterback.

Yet, for John Wivholm, a funny thing happened on the way to the practice field.

It was to be a year of trials, of tribulation, of learning as he went, of reaching next year’s expectations at break-neck speed. There was no room for the luxuries of seasoning. It was here and now, his moment to lead.

And at times, it has been downright tough.

Jantz went through the latter part of the summer with shin splint problems. This caused Wivholm to handle the assignment for the Bear River scrimmage, as well as the first game of the season against Atwater. A game that was supposed to be played to the south, it was relocated to Hooper Stadium as a result of smoke problems.

“My mindset changed a little, but I knew Steele would be back. I was super nervous against Atwater. The offense did not do well, and the responsibility needs to be on the quarterback’s shoulders,” Wivholm remembers. His struggles resulted in an NU win, but there was relief that Steele would be back. Little did he know it would be short-lived.

In what might be described as a fairly ordinary play in the first defensive series against Del Oro, Steele Jantz went down.

“Although it was nothing spectacular, a pile of players fell on his legs,” recalls Wivholm. His season was about to take a permanent change.

“My first thought was getting through the Del Oro game,” Wivholm said. “The team needed me to step in, but it was a big surprise.”

It was not until a visit to the hospital after the game that it finally sunk in. He thought the leg was broken and it was confirmed.

He had a chat with Steele’s dad. The baton, strangely enough, had been passed to John and Broughan Jantz, Steele’s sophomore brother. The season became theirs to direct. It became theirs to make memorable.

Although John would describe it as positive that their learning and execution was accelerated, it has not come without its fair share of criticism.

“You can listen to it or ignore it, but I chose to ignore it,” Wivholm reflected. “The reality is that the negativity will not change things. The team has bonded through all of this,”

Coach Dave Humphers describes him as a “great kid. Strong character. Hard worker. Wonderful young man. He has improved dramatically. His grasp and knowledge of the offense, his passing have all undergone great improvement.”

John and Broughan remain close. It is a healthy competition.

They encourage each other and have approached it in a positive manner. Each has his own series. If it results in a score, they are rewarded with the next series. It is an incentive program that encourages success.

“It is tough to get a rhythm going, but nice if you score to get a bonus,” John said. “If Broughan is doing something good, we should stick with him.”

Humphers reflects, “They compete for playing time, but it is a positive competition. At some point we may go with one or the other, but they are both improving. They show up every day and improve their skills.”

This week’s tilt against Davis and next week’s game against Valley ” both home games ” will dictate this team’s results.

Two wins and it should result in postseason play for a team on the rise. These are the most critical of the campaign. It is that opportunity to take a challenging season and turn it around. It is their chance to make their mark, to carve their Nevada Union football legacy.

“We have to pull all the stops out and win these two,” Wivholm said. “The defense has been excellent, and the offense must figure out what it takes to win games.”

Most feel it is the little things that have caused problems for this team: the untimely penalties, the turnovers, holding onto blocks ” the little things. Yet, it remains a very tight team with great chemistry.

Through the abundance of injuries and more challenges than any NU team has seen in the past half-decade, this unit strangely enough is still positioned to possibly venture deep. As distant as it might seem to some, this squad believes that the postseason is within its grasp, there for the taking. There has been no finger pointing, just a team waiting to peak at the right time.

For Wivholm and his band of fall brothers, the time is now.

Most feel they have not had the chance to put it all together yet. The best, they feel, is yet to come. This, indeed, is a team on the brink. With all the criticism and heated discussion, they have calmly maneuvered themselves, even in the face of great adversity, to a place where late in this campaign they can dictate their own fate.

“My personal goals for the last two games are no turnovers and five touchdowns per game. I like the way this team has been staying together. No one has given up,” concluded Wivholm.

For those who have already flown the white flag, consider this: The 2007 version of NU football feels ready to make its statement.

This group believes in itself. This squad dares to believe that this can be a special team, a special season. For those who have grown so accustomed to the unparalleled success of the program, let me offer this. Every year since I landed on this scene in 1999 the script has been different. Each year it has been unique. There is promise that 2007 will be no different.

For John Wivholm, he partially shoulders the next two weeks. If the goal of this program really is to build character, the two weeks to come … no, the five weeks to come … could spell the best fall has to offer.

Here’s to another strong dose of Miner Magic.


Jim Adams, lives in Nevada City, is a regular contributor to The Union and a broadcaster for TouchDown Productions. He may be reached via e-mail at

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