Ask Hough High football coach Matthew Jenkins what he thinks about senior wide receiver Nolan Groulx, and Jenkins just shakes his head..
“He makes tough catches,” Jenkins said. “Nobody catches everything, but he makes some catches where you go ‘He caught that?’
“(The ball) is going through a defender’s hands, and he makes concentration catches, and he catches it whether it’s high or low, and he’s really difficult to tackle after he catches the ball.”
Groulx, a top 100 national recruit, is part of a Huskies team (5-0) that is unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in the Observer’s Sweet 16 poll. Hough plays No. 15 Mooresville (5-0) Friday night at home.
“I’m not surprised he’s playing so well,” said former Davidson Day coach Chad Grier, now coach at Oceanside (S.C.) Academy. “I think he’s as good as I’ve seen in high school football.”
Groulx, 5-foot-11 and 195 pounds, burst onto the scene as a sophomore at Davidson Day, playing alongside quarterback Sam Hartman, now starting at Wake Forest. Groulx had a Mecklenburg County-record 1,853 yards receiving and started climbing the national recruiting charts.
He transferred to Hough last season, stepping up in class and competition, and he had 1,101 yards receiving and eight touchdowns. Groulx committed to Wake Forest in June and continued to see his rankings climb with a series of top performances in elite summer camps.
Rivals ranks Groulx the No. 2 overall player in North Carolina, behind Harding running back/linebacker Quavaris Crouch. He is the No. 72 overall player in the nation and the No. 14 recruit at his position.
This season, he has 19 catches for 338 yards and two touchdowns for a Huskies’ team that is outscoring opponents 231-28.
After finishing 11-4 last season and losing to Mallard Creek in the N.C. 4AA finals, Hough returned 16 starters, 35 lettermen and added key transfers.
Groulx said Hough’s goal, with all that talent, was simple this season: win the school’s first state championship.
“We were upset with the outcome we had last year,” he said, “and we’re looking to come out, start fast and finish strong.”
Groulx initially committed to Wisconsin last January, but changed to Wake Forest, choosing the Deacons over schools like Duke, N.C. State and South Carolina.
“It felt like the right fit,” Groulx said, “being close to home and having a good relationship....with the coaches up there.”
At Wake Forest, Groulx will reunite with Hartman and continue to show off the catching ability that wows Jenkins, his high school coach.
And Grier, his former coach at Davidson Day, believes he’ll have a “brilliant” college career.
“He’s not a kid, when he gets off the bus, if you didn’t know him, you would think he’s no big deal,” said Grier, whose son, Will, is a Heisman Trophy candidate at West Virginia. “But when the lights come on, Nolan can play. He’s a special talent. He’s not (a really fast receiver) but his ability to change speed and run routes is incredibly advanced for a high school player. He catches everything, but it’s his yards after the catch that’s most impressive.”
With the bulk of his senior season remaining, Groulx already ranks among the top five Mecklenburg County players all-time in several categories.
That doesn’t surprise Grier, either.
“He’s a really competitive guy that has fun being intense and making plays,” Grier said. “He’s special, man. I wish I had him down here. He would make us better.”
Nolan Groulx record charting
Hough High’s Nolan Groulx ranks among Mecklenburg County all-time leaders in several receiving categories.
Single-season receiving yards
1. Nolan Groulx, Davidson Day, 1853 (2016)
2. Aaron Seward, Davidson Day, 1,844 (2012)
3. Mohamed Massaquoi, Independence, 1,834 (2004)
4. Hakeem Nicks, Independence, 1,819 (2005)
5. Mario Raley, Independence, 1,644 (2000)
Career receiving yards
1. Mohamed Massaquoi, Independence, 4,876
2. Maurice Staley, West Charlotte, 3,611
3. Nolan Groulx, Hough, 3,533
4. Mario Raley, Independence, 3,519
5. Randolph Slade, South Mecklenburg, 3,345
Receiving touchdowns, season
1. Mohamed Massaquoi, Independence, 32 (2004)
2. Mario Raley, Independence, 27 (2001)
3. Aaron Seward, Davidson Day, 26 (2012)
4. Nolan Groulx, Davidson Day, 24 (2016)
5. Mohamed Massaquoi, Independence, 23 (2003)